Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment

Presenter: John Pope

December, 2014

Despite both national and international efforts to eliminate sexual harassment, there is no single definition of what constitutes prohibited behavior.  Generally, international instruments define sexual harassment broadly as a form of violence against women and as discriminatory treatment, while national laws focus more closely on the illegal conduct.  All definitions, however, are in agreement that the prohibited behavior is unwanted and causes harm to the victim. At the International level, the United Nations General Recommendation 19 to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women defines sexual harassment as including:

“…such unwelcome sexually determined behavior as physical contact and advances, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, whether by words or actions.  Such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem; it is discriminatory when the woman has reasonable ground to believe that her objection would disadvantage her in connection with her employment, including recruitment or promotion, or when it creates a hostile working environment.”

Recently here in Canada, there have been two news items about sexual behaviour in the work place:  The NDP members of the House of Commons accusations about 2 Liberal parliamentarians, and workplace complaints against well known CBC talk host Jian Ghomeshi  In both cases, the high profiles of those accused makes them both worthy news items.

But this only highlights what may be going on across Canada on a regular basis. 


How endemic is sexual harassment in Canada?  How does it compare with countries around the globe?

What is being done about it?

Can parliamentary procedures resolve this dispute in the House of Commons?

How have attitudes changes in Canada over the years?  Are women still stigmatized in this country?

Do we need stronger preventive laws, or is this something that should be dealt with socially through education and support programs?

How is this related to the bullying issue?

How long will it be before women dominate the reigns of political power?  Is a matriarchal society possible?

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