little bit of rape is good for a man's soul".
men find it so easy to abuse the women they are most intimate with - their
wives, daughters, nieces or granddaughters - it is only too clear how easy
they must find it to abuse other women who are strangers to them.
harassment in the workplace affects millions of women around the world
regardless of their profession, but legal systems offer them virtually no
Even when they do have legal recourse, the fear of being fired,
penalised or ridiculed, or else the promise of a much-wanted promotion,
keeps many women silent.
The tautology of the secretary/mistress might be a cliché, but
when management has to choose between losing a highly qualified and
competent male executive and a dispensable female secretary, the choice is
harassment in the workplace typically ranges from mildly distasteful
sexist comments and jokes, pornographic pin-up posters, provocative
electronic mail and X-rated computer software all the way to outright
assault and rape in extreme cases.
Sexual favours rather than merit and hard work often remain the
determinants of a women's professional career in a male-dominated
For example, in England sexual harassment affects one in seven
women, and one in five professional women, according to a recent survey y
the London School of Economics.
Cambridge University, a 1989 study found that one in ten women
undergraduate students reported unsolicited sexual harassment from dons
and one in three students suffered similar unwanted sexual attention from
male students. No code of conduct or disciplinary framework exists,
however, to deal with such complaints.
Sexual harassment also affects domestic servants, factory workers,
women in the informal sector, and virtually all professions throughout the
the absence of a legal definition of sexual harassment in most countries,
few mechanisms exist to combat it.
Sexist language, leering, pinching, advances and an abusive working
environment are not ground for legal action.
Only physical assault, a criminal offence, provides adequate cause
for filing a legal suit and it is often difficult to prove in court.
the United States, sexual harassment was not recognised by law until the
It was only in 1980 that the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission published a set of guidelines identifying harassment and
Six years later, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that
sexual harassment constituted a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Now, as courts extend the definition of sexual harassment and
penalise companies with punitive damages, some companies are being forced
to listen to women's demands for dignity in the workplace.
decades of inertia, Europe has begun making some headway in combating
In July 1991, the European Community adopted a new Code of Practice
of the Protection of the Dignity of Women and Men at Work which encourages
employers and workers to draw up a company policy statement so as to ban
sexual harassment, to appoint trained personnel to handle complaints and
to agree on guidelines for disciplinary proceedings.
and more recently France, have made sexual harassment a criminal offence
though, as the new laws are vague, it might prove difficult for women to
exercise these newly granted rights.
As of mid-1991 Britain and Ireland had recognised sexual harassment
in judicial terms but had not yet adopted laws against it.
addition to harassment in the workplace, women are also prime candidates
as victims of violence.
Few women walk the streets at night without genuine fear for their safety.
growing evidence that crimes against women are rising the world over.
For example, in Trinidad and Tobago, the number of men charged with rape
increased by 134 percent between 1970 and 1980, even though the population rate rose by
under 30 per cent in that time.
United States, three out of four women will be victims of at least one
violent attack in their lifetime, the Justice Department recently
assault is the single most under-reported crime in most societies.
Virtually all sexual assaults are against women.
United States, rape is increasing four times faster than other crimes, and
at present one woman' is raped every six minutes. This
chilling statistic becomes even more shocking considering that only
one in ten rape cases are ever reported.
culture reflects the leniency afforded to rapists and the contempt shown
toward rape victims.
For example, in 1983 a British parliamentarian replied to a question on paedophilia by relating that the maximum
penalty for indecent assault on girls aged 13-16 was two year's
imprisonment, while the penalty for assault on boys was 10 years.
In another example, Judge William Reinecke
five-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by her mother's boyfriend in
Wisconsin, USA in 1982 as "an
unusually sexually promiscuous young lady".
though sexual crimes against women are on the rise in many countries,
little is being done to change the legal process that makes it virtually
impossible for women to prove they have been raped.
Many women prefer to keep silent rather than be twice victimised by
a legal system that in insensitive to their plight.
There is an urgent need for both sexual harassment and violence
against women in society to be addressed at the national and international
levels to expedite a strategy of action.
: United Nations New York
1991: Women: Challenges to the year 2000