Day 9: 1 in 2 women in the EU has been sexually harassed

Posted on December 03, 2020 at 09:42 AM

Day 9

An 2014 EU–wide survey from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) found that, depending on the number of different forms of sexual harassment that were asked about in the survey, an estimated 83 million to 102 million women (45% to 55% of women) in the EU have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15. 42,000 women across the then 28 member states of the EU took part in the survey.

Definitions for sexual harassment vary but in Ireland 14A (7) of the Employment Equality Act define sexual harassment as:  

‘any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating as person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading humiliating or offensive environment for the person’

The Act highlights the serious consequences that sexual harassment can have on employees affecting their confidence and overall health causing anxiety and stress. The department of Justice, Equality and Law reform updated the Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment in 2012.

According to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, sexual harassment is defined as an behaviour that damages a person’s dignity (remarking on a person’s body or appearance) or puts them in a hostile situation or environment (displaying pornographic posters).

Sexual harassment can take many forms including:

  • Physical forms of harassment: unwelcome touching, hugging or kissing;
  • Verbal forms of harassment: sexually suggestive, offensive, comments or jokes; inappropriate invitations to go out on dates; intrusive, offensive questions about private life; intrusive, offensive comments about a woman’s physical appearance;
  • Non-verbal forms of harassment: inappropriate, intimidating staring or leering; receiving or being shown offensive, sexually explicit pictures, photos or gifts; somebody indecently exposing themselves; being made to watch or look at pornographic material against one’s wishes;
  • Cyberharassment: receiving unwanted, offensive, sexually explicit emails or SMS messages; inappropriate, offensive advances on social networking websites or in internet chat rooms.

 According to the FRA study, in general, the risk of exposure to sexual harassment is above average for women aged 18 to 39 years old.

Out of all women who described the most serious incident of sexual harassment that had happened to them, 35% kept the incident to themselves and did not speak about it to anyone, 28% talked to a friend, 24 % spoke to a family member or a relative and 14% informed their partner. Only 4% of women reported to the police, 4% talked to an employer or boss at their workplace and less than 1 % consulted a lawyer, a victim support organisation or a trade union representative.

See the main results from the FRA EU-wide survey on violence against women here.

Learn more about sexual harassment, here.

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