Magazine article European Social Policy

Equal Opportunities: Parliament and Council Agree Tough New Equality Rules

Magazine article European Social Policy

Equal Opportunities: Parliament and Council Agree Tough New Equality Rules

Article excerpt

The newly-agreed Directive defines sexual harassment in the workplace as any "form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature (that) occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person in particular (and/or) creating or administering a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment".Anna Diamantopoulou, EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, welcomed the agreement on the new Directive and said that she hoped it would improve the generally poor level of awareness of sexual harassment in Member States. "Sexual harassment, absent from most national laws, will finally have a name in European law", commented Mrs Diamantopoulou. Very few countries - France and Belgium being two exceptions - have national legislation at the moment governing sexual harassment in the workplace.According to a recent Commission survey, approximately 30% to 50% of women and 10% of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lives. The study indicates that the problem of sexual harassment is much greater in the South of Europe than in the North. A 1986 survey (the most recent available) shows that 84% of women in Spain feel that they have been sexually harassed. A similar survey from 1988 shows this figure to be 60%. By contrast, a national study in Denmark shows just 11% of women have been sexually harassed while in Sweden the figure is 17%. The Commission believes that this North-South separation is the result of cultural heritage, and hopes that the new legislation will change the way in which women are perceived in the South.Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA, Finland), acting as rapporteur on behalf of the European Parliament, stressed that the purpose of the Directive was not just to protect the rights of women but also of men. "Men can be victims of discrimination as well as women", said Ms Hautala. …

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