UK parliamentary staff face unwanted sexual advances, report says
LONDON (Reuters) – Staff working for lawmakers in Britains lower house of parliament face an unacceptable risk of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse, which has been hidden because they fear reprisals, according to an official report on Thursday.
FILE PHOTO: A general view of The Houses of Parliament in London November 9, 2006. REUTERS/Kieran Doherty/File Photo
An independent inquiry, led by lawyer Gemma White, was commissioned after parliament became one of several institutions to become embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal after abuse allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein prompted women and men to share stories about improper behaviour.
Employees working in the House of Commons were subjected to harassment ranging from “very serious” sexual assault to sexist comments and lawmakers sharing explicit details of their own sex lives, the report said.
Many of the advances involved attempts at kissing, breasts being grabbed, buttocks slapped and thighs being stroked.
“There is an unacceptable level of sexual banter and unwelcome discussion of intimate sexual details,” it added.
The report, based on information from more than 200 people, said abuse was widespread and that workplace harassment had been accepted for too long.
One witness described how senior lawmakers staff used parliaments bars to meet young men and women “in the hopes that we will have sex with them to further our careers”.
Another said that sexual harassment in parliament was “a necessary evil” for ambitious people who wanted to succeed but did not have connections.
The report said many employees were in a uniquely vulnerable position because they worked directly for lawmakers with scant oversight and were afraid to complain fearing it would be “career suicide”.
The report found that some lawmakers routinely bullied their staff by shouting at them and humiliating them in front of colleagues.
Staff were also asked to carry out personal and domestic tasks for lawmakers, including looking after children and pets, or waiting at their homes for deliveries and running errands.
“The constant drip, drip, as more than one contributor put it, eats away at the employees self-confidence until theyRead More