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A total of 13 parliamentary assistants have told YLE that they have faced sexual harassment while working at the Finnish Parliament.
A total of 13 parliamentary assistants have told YLE that they have faced sexual harassment while working at the Finnish Parliament.

 

Over a tenth of parliamentary assistants have experienced sexual harassment during course of the current electoral term, according to YLE.

YLE on Tuesday published the results of a survey it distributed to a total of 223 employees and personal assistants working at the Finnish Parliament. Thirteen of the of the 95 employees who responded to the survey revealed that they have experienced sexual harassment.

“The number sounds high, even though larger numbers have been measured,” Tanja Auvinen, the director of the gender equality unit at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, commented to YLE. “More than a tenth, that’s a lot.”

The public broadcasting company pointed out that different surveys have yielded different estimates of the prevalence of sexual harassment. The Finnish Institute for Occupational Health (TTL), for example, has estimated that six to seven per cent of employees have experienced sexual harassment. Eurobarometers on equality and the working life, on the other hand, indicate that sexual harassment is more prevalent at workplaces in Finland.

All of the studies have shown that women are subjected to much more sexual harassment than men. All but one of the parliamentary assistants who told the public broadcaster that they have been sexually harassed were women.

Auvinen also estimated that sexual harassment is more common at workplaces with strong positions of power and where women have traditionally been employed in subordinate capacities. The results of the survey seem to corroborate this, as the accounts of the assistants indicate that the harasser was in a position of power in relation to them.

A large study conducted a few years ago in the service sector also found that the victims of sexual harassment are typically fixed-term employees as the means at their disposal to report harassment are limited compared to full-time employees, added Auvinen.

Parliamentary assistants are employed on a fixed-term basis.

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) assured in an interview with the public broadcasting company over a week ago that the government will take action to combat sexual harassment but estimated that the legislative means to do so are limited. At least two professors have since replied to him saying that a lot could be done to tackle the issue.

Johanna Niemi, a professor of procedural law at the University of Turku, urged the premier and his fellow lawmakers to amend the criminal code.

“I propose that the offence of sexual harassment be revised so that also repeated, gender-based defamatory remarks fall within its scope,” she wrote in her blog last Friday.

Sexual harassment was not recognised as a punishable offence under the criminal code until 2014.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Timo Jaakonaho – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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