After the #metoo testimonies of sexual harassment flooded the social media, the European Parliament has stepped up for action, in an attempt to “clear its own house”.
As one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence during their adult lives, up to 55% of women in the EU have been sexually harassed, 32% of all victims in the EU said the perpetrator was a boss, colleague or customer, the EU’s legislating body has for a bloc strategy and rules against all gender-based violence.
According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) study from 2014 on violence against women, numbers don’t lie, as the majority, a 75%, of women in qualified professions or top management jobs have been sexually harassed, the European Parliament proposes measures to tackle under-reporting, especially by the most vulnerable, starting from the Chamber itself, by requesting a task force of independent experts to examine the situation in the European Parliament.
MEPs strongly condemn any form of sexual violence and deplore the fact that these acts are too easily tolerated. “Perpetrators must be punished,” they add, reiterating 2014’s call to the EU executive to table an EU-wide strategy, including a draft law with binding instruments, to protect women against violence, including sexual harassment and sexual abuse of women and girls. The resolution was passed by 580 votes to 10, with 27 abstentions on Thursday in Strasbourg vote.
During a debate about sexual harassment at the European Parliament on Wednesday, several MEPs held up ‘Me Too’ placards in the chamber in solidarity with victims. Several MEPs have written a letter addressed to the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, calling for an external investigation into sexual harassment at the institution in response to the allegations. It was three days ago when a Sunday Times investigation revealed that more than a dozen women accused politicians of groping, stalking, harassment, and treating them like meat.
The MEPs asked in the letter for a special dedicated committee on sexual harassment to be set up, and for legal and medical support to be provided to victims. “Politicians should act as responsible role models in preventing and combating sexual harassments in Parliaments and beyond,” said the MEPs at the letter.
On Thursday, the European Parliament moved a step further, the MEPs called on Tajani and the chamber’s administration to urgently and thoroughly examine the recent media reports on sexual harassment and abuse in the European Parliament, to evaluate and, if necessary, revise the composition of competent bodies so as to ensure independence and gender balance, and to further reinforce and promote the functioning of its Advisory Committee dealing with complaints of harassment between Accredited Parliamentary Assistants (APAs) and Members of Parliament as well as its Staff Advisory Committee for Parliament staff on harassment prevention.
The MEPs requested Tajani to set up a task force of independent experts to be convened with a mandate to examine the situation of sexual harassment and abuse in Parliament, which will carry out an evaluation of Parliament’s existing Advisory Committee that is already dealing with complaints of sexual harassment. Furthermore, legislators ask for an institutional network of confidential counselors tailored to Parliament’s structures to support, advise and speak on behalf of victims, when needed, as is the practice for the Commission staff to be set up.