Sexual harassment is a common occurrence inside the Australian Parliament, a report published on Tuesday has revealed. One in three of those working in the Australian Parliament have faced sexual harassment, the report said, following an independent investigation into parliamentary workplace culture launched in February. The inquiry was prompted by the emergence of a series of sexual harassment allegations against members of the Liberal Party. According to the report, more than half of those who responded had experienced at least one incident of sexual harassment, bullying, or actual or attempted sexual assault pointing to an unchecked culture of improper behaviour inside the country’s largest legislative authority.
News reports suggest the findings are not favourable for Prime Minister Scott Morrison who faces federal election in the early half of next year. Following the allegations from female employees in Parliament, support for his conservative coalition government had witnessed a drastic decline. Commenting on the report, the Prime Minister declared that the statistics presented in the review were “appalling and disturbing” and Parliament must work towards becoming a safer workplace. The report made 28 recommendations which focused on greater gender balance between the lawmakers and the staff, creation of a new human resources office to deal with complaints, and new alcohol policies.
In March, thousands of women across forty Australian cities and towns took to the streets to protest against sexual violence and gender inequality carrying placards with #March4Justice splashed on them. The Prime Minister’s admission that he does not find the findings of the report surprising is just another marker of the culture of sexual harassment that's believed to prevail at workplaces across the globe. Despite global movements like the MeToo campaigns, the incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace remain uncomfortably high. While the official reports are shocking, one needs to keep in mind that many victims do not lodge formal complaints for fear of losing their jobs. Even when formal complaints are made, victims routinely face discrimination and pressure from their organisations to not pursue the matter.
In light of these findings, there is a need for organisations to revise their policies regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. One possibility is to carry out routine surveys to assess the workplace culture and ensure that any victim of sexual harassment is given the required care and guidance.