Courts Rarely Process Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – Survey

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The courts are not sensitized to process cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, partially because of the poor and confusing legislative framework with four laws that cover that area. Victims often aren’t aware that this is a criminal offense and don’t know either whom to or how to report that they have experienced sexual harassment, gender equality ombudsman Višnja Ljubičić said presenting the survey results.

The survey was conducted by an independent expert for combating violence against women, Dunja Bonacci Skenderović, on a sample of 448 people, 16 years since the last similar survey was conducted in Croatia by the ombudsman’s office.

The latest survey, although it was not conducted on a representative sample, indicates that three in four women and half the men experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and that in 61% of the cases the abusers were their superiors.

The explanation for such a high percentage of men is the fact that only 32 men completed the questionnaire. The survey also lacks gender segregation which would show whether that 50% of men were harassed by women or other men.

Gender-conditioned harassment

“In order to be able to talk about gender-conditioned harassment, it needs to be said that 60% of women were harassed exclusively by men while it is unclear who harassed the 50% of men,” said Ljubičić.

As far as reports of sexual harassment of men are concerned, her office has received only one complaint by a man who was harassed in the education system by his school principal, while several men reported they were harassed because of their sexual orientation.

“Men who were sexually harassed because of their sexual preference were harassed by other men and not women,” underscored Ljubičić, adding that it is important to supplement this survey.

The majority of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace keep that a secret. As many as 83% of those surveyed had not reported these cases due to lack of confidence in their employers that anything would be done after they reported it, said Bonacci Skenderović and underscored that sexual harassment in the workplace is a criminal offense.

The Criminal Code is currently being amended with regard to sexual harassment which, Ljubičić said, should in future treat it as gender-conditioned violence. Court proceedings will be launched ex-officio based on reports made to the police and the statute of limitations will no longer be limited to three months, but ten years instead, she said.

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