For gender equality to become reality, sexual harassment must stop

Sexual harassment of women is not a new problem, even though it has emerged as a new issue since the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. On International Women’s Day, FRA joins the UN in calling for greater gender equality and points out that widespread harassment must be combated in order to make equality a reality in the workplace and elsewhere.

The findings from FRA’s groundbreaking survey of 42,000 women throughout the EU show that up to 39 million women (21 %) in the EU experienced sexual harassment in the 12 months prior to the survey. At the same time, cyberharassment is a growing problem, with an average of 20 % of young women subject to unwanted advances via social media or mobile phones.

While more than half of women (55 %) in the EU have experienced sexual harassment, sexual harassment is more commonly experienced by women with a university degree and those in the highest occupational groups. 75 % of women in the top management category have experienced sexual harassment, compared with 41 % of those who have never been in paid work. Stereotypes about appropriate gender roles, and women’s exposure to risk of sexual harassment in different settings, continue to have a negative impact on the lives of all women, irrespective of education or salary.

In order to combat sexual harassment, FRA makes numerous proposals in its analysis of the survey findings, for example that employers’ organisations and trade unions need to promote awareness of sexual harassment and encourage women to report incidents immediately. FRA also calls for EU Member States to review existing legislation and policy responses to sexual harassment in different settings, including the internet.