New UN Women publication addresses how to end sexual harassment

Date: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

UN Women today launched a publication to support the fight against end sexual harassment, entitled “What will it take? Promoting cultural change to end sexual harassment”. The publication focuses on the influence of beliefs on actions and offers guidance to policymakers, employers and universities on how to achieve cultural change and address this scourge making sure that the needs of the victims and survivors are at the heart of all efforts.

What will it take? Promoting cultural change to end sexual harassment

Purna Sen, UN Women’s Executive Coordinator on Addressing Sexual Harassment, and lead author/coordinator of the publication, explains that “there is a desperate need to unpick the ease with which accounts of sexual harassment are dismissed, considered malicious or over-reaction. We have to start by listening to victims and survivors if we are serious about addressing their concerns and we must also have effective ways of changing behaviours and ensuring accountability. This means re-thinking our training approaches too so that gender inequality and other prejudices don’t infect our work”.

The publication focuses on five areas of work to achieve lasting cultural change:

  • training to dislodge entrenched and discriminatory ideas on gender;
  • victim-focused work where victim and survivors lead;
  • Safe, accessible and fit-for-purpose reporting mechanisms in order to remove judgment, retaliation, ensure victim safety and consequences for abusers;
  • zero tolerance against all forms of sexual harassment, both in principle and in practice;
  • collective ownership of the need to change culture and attitudes and to establish common values, including the need for bystanders to intervene.

Professor Catharine A. MacKinnon, UN Women Advisor for addressing sexual harassment, writes in the publication that “sexual abuse is driven by cultures that permit, even encourage, it. It will end with cultures that no longer consider it normal and trivial, even ennobling”. A total of twenty-one contributions in the publication address the question of the needed cultural change to end sexual harassment, including by Under Secretary-General Jan Beagle, the UN Feminist Network, the UN Women Youth Council and Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security Peter Drennan, Ai-Jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the World Association of Girls Guide and Girl Scouts.

The unprecedented global movement against sexual harassment that is the #MeToo mobilisation

continues to galvanise those who are tired of waiting for safety, equality and justice, to

name their abuse and seek validation, redress and transformation. This publication, which was presented in the context of the Iceland #MeToo conference on 17 September, with the presence of Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland and Paula Lehtomäki, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers amongst others, provides a framework of standards to address the calls for fundamental change.

The new publication complements the 2018 UN Women paper – Towards an end to Sexual Harassment: The Urgency and Nature of Change in the Era of #MeToo.