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Sexual harassment: nearly two-in-three young women 'are victims'

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Sexual harassment: nearly two-in-three young women 'are victims'

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More than half of women say they have experienced sexual harassment at work in Britain, a new survey has found.

The poll, published by the British trade union organisation the TUC, says young women (18-24 year olds) are particularly vulnerable, nearly two thirds say they have been victims.

The harassment includes indecent comments or remarks; unwelcome jokes of a sexual nature; unwanted sexual touching; and the circulation or display of pornography at work.

The new report comes just days after Euronews’ special investigation into the issue, which revealed the picture elsewhere in Europe.

More than one in two of EU women surveyed have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15, according to FRA, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Of those, nearly one-in-three said it had come from somebody in an employment context – a colleague, boss or a customer.

Better educated women more at risk

One of the key issues raised from FRA’s report, and not highlighted in the TUC’s findings, is that the better educated a women is, the more likely she is to be harassed sexually.

The EU-wide survey found 69 percent of women who had been through higher education had experienced sexual harassment. That compares with 46 percent of women who have left school before going on to higher education.

Joanna Goodey, head of FRA’s freedom and justice department, told Euronews’ Insiders programme: “As women go up through the workplace they may be working more in typically more male-dominated professions. So, for example, if you’re in the business sector or finance, or you are going to become a director of a company, you are challenging typical gender roles. You may also be working with more men so there’s more risk of violence.”

Read more of the interview here.

What’s the picture elsewhere in the EU?

France is the EU’s worst when it becomes to sexual harassment involving women who have been through higher education.

Nine-in-ten of those surveyed said they had suffered sexual harassment since the age of 15, compared with 29 percent in Bulgaria.

What can be done about it?

Goodey told Euronews people should be better educated around the issue of sexual harassment and that existing laws should be better enforced.

There is also the issue of it being reported – the British survey found four out of five women who were targeted did not tell their employers about it.

It is a similar situation in France, only five percent of those sexually harassed file a complaint.

There is also much the employer can do, Alice Hood, head of equality at the TUC told Reuters.

She said many women did not report the incident because they were embarrassed, thought they would not be taken seriously, or feared it would damage their career prospects.

Hood said employers must confront and deal with harassment through staff training, changing workplace culture and by implementing robust policies.

“Maybe it’s happening on email or social media – but it’s still harassment and it still has a really humiliating effect on people experiencing it,” she added.

“Employers need to do much more – it is clearly a huge problem. The first step is taking it seriously … so people know that harassment won’t be tolerated.”

Among the changes the TUC wants to see in the UK is the scrapping of fees for employment tribunals. It says it currently costs £1,200 (1,400 euros) to take a case to court, a charge that make the difference between a woman pursuing a case, or not.

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