European Interest

‘The problem of sexual harassment in parliaments is even worse than we thought’

Flickr/European Parliament/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
"Violence against women, we can stop it!" campaign, European Parliament, March, 2010.

Sexual abuse and violence against women appears to be widespread in… Europe’s parliaments. The findings of a new study show that almost half of female politicians and parliamentary staff across the continent say they have at some point received threats of death, rape or beating.

As many as 85% of all surveyed women had at some point suffered psychological violence. In total, 68% reported they had been the target of comments relating to their appearance or based on gender stereotypes, while a quarter said they had been the victim of sexual violence.

Younger aged 40 and under women were found to be the most vulnerable. Among staffers, 49 percent said they had been abused in the workplace; in 70% of cases the perpetrator was a male politician.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, the findings by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organisation for individual parliamentarians, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, provide a snapshot into how widespread sexual abuse and violence against female government workers is in Europe’s parliaments.

“As a woman MP myself, I am deeply troubled by these results that show that the problem of sexual harassment in parliaments is even worse than we thought,” Inter-Parliamentary Union President Gabriela Cuevas said. “Not only is harassment a severe infringement of women’s rights, it’s also bad for democracy. We need to acknowledge the perverse effect that this can have on the freedom of action of women MPs.”

The study’s findings are based on interviews with 123 women (81 MPs and 42 parliamentary staff members) from 45 European countries.

According to DW, the report’s release comes a week on from the launch of a new blog detailing anonymous accounts of sexual abuse at the European Parliament in Brussels. The group behind this initiative is known as MeTooEP.

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