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‘More than half of women seeking workplace legal counsel have experienced sexual harassment ‘

By Rana Husseini - Nov 25,2018 - Last updated at Nov 25,2018

AMMAN – Over 50 per cent of Jordanian women and around 73 per cent of Syrian refugee women who sought legal consultations for workplace issues informally reported that they had experienced sexual harassment, according to a local study.

The findings were revealed in a report on sexual harassment in the workplace, titled “Silent Women”, which was prepared by the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) for the international “16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence”, campaign.

The report was prepared within the context of a project called “Women Access to Economic Justice through Legal Empowerment”, and was funded by the Ford Foundation, according to ARDD’s CEO Samar Muhareb.

“The report revealed that sexual harassment in Jordan is still a hidden phenomenon and we believe it is time to end the stigmatisation of victims of sexual harassment,” Muhareb told a press conference on Thursday.

She added that the aim was to ensure that government and non-governmental organisations “would hear the voices of these women and work together to ensure a safe workplace that is free from any form of harassment”.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines sexual harassment as a “sex-based behaviour that is unwelcome and offensive to its recipients that may take the form of a job benefit — such as a pay raise, a promotion or even continued employment, and is made conditional on the victim acceding to demands to engage in some form of sexual behaviour”, the ARDD statement added.

According to the ILO, other forms of sexual harassment include a hostile work environment; in which conduct creates conditions that are intimidating or humiliating for the victim, physical behaviour; such as violence and touching, verbal behaviour; such as comments about appearance; offensive and intrusive remarks and non-verbal behaviour; such as whistling and sexual gestures.

Muhareb told the press conference that the report was meant to “bring to light a widely underreported form of violence against women, which is the sexual harassment they face at the work place”.

ARDD’s legal consultant, Rami Quwaide, who presented the report to the press said that the organisation collected data from 3,077 legal consultations on workplace practices, including 1,466 Jordanian and 1,611 Syrian refugee women and girls. 

Quwaide stressed that ARDD surveyed employers at 13 companies on their knowledge about sexual harassment and ways to prevent it. 

The report also examines the existing legislation in Jordan and its current gaps and provides a full set of recommendations, Quwaide added. 

The report recommended raising the awareness of employees on reporting mechanisms and the relevant law, as well as setting up a hotline for reporting harassment.

Quwaide added that the employers recommended establishing written policies in the workplace on equal pay, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.

Main findings of ‘Silent Women’ report 

1. Harassment in the workplace remains hidden — women fear the repercussions of reporting harassment, due to social stigma and a lack of confidence in the law and other protection mechanisms.

2. Sexual harassment in the workplace cannot be viewed in isolation to other harmful workplace practices, such as inequality in other labour rights.

3. Refugees and those working informally are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and other harmful and discriminatory workplace practices.

4. A lack of guidance for women and mandatory duties for employers regarding policies on sexual harassment, alongside an absence of clear reporting policies for employees contributes to ad hoc approaches to addressing sexual harassment. 

From those survey respondents who did report having experienced sexual harassment: 

  • 75.3 per cent of Jordanian women and 78.5 per cent of Syrian refugee women reported that they had not considered taking legal action.
  • 8.2 per cent of Jordanian women and 12 per cent of Syrian refugee women said that they did not report sexual harassment because they did not believe anything would happen if they did so.
  • 8.2 per cent of Jordanian women and 4.3 per cent of women said they did not report sexual harassment because they were either afraid to lose their job and 8.2 per cent of Jordanian women and 10.3 per cent of Syrian refugee women because they were afraid that the work situation would get worse.

 

 

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