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Harassment in the workplace has to end

Harassment is a crime likely to be found in any sector or industry, which violates the victim's core human rights
Employee at the Central Library of the UNAM has denounced her supervisor for sexual harassment before Mexican authorities – Photo: Alejandro Acosta/EL UNIVERSAL
21/11/2017
08:38
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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Sexual harassment is a crime likely to be found in any sector or industry. It's a problem which has recently gained notoriety because it violates the victim's core human rights; likewise, it weakens the institutions where it happens and breaks the social contract as it distorts coexistence relationships among individuals.

Harassment and abuse in the workplace are crimes punished by the Federal Labor Law in Mexico, nevertheless, cases are still frequent, just like EL UNIVERSAL publishes today.

Victims of harassment are affected in several areas: they become unproductive for the institution where they've suffered harassment, their relationships with coworkers are destroyed, and the victim's human rights are violated.

Although harassment and abuse are linked to abuse of power – given that the abuser is usually on a higher position of power than the victim – these crimes also take place between coworkers and, less frequently, between a subordinate and a supervisor in which the subordinate is the perpetrator. Yet however they happen, the phenomenon in itself and the reaction it causes reveal the maturity of a society.

When there are denounces of sexual abuse and harassment, it has to be taken into account the way in which societies and institutions face the problem. In Mexico, despite the documented cases, we still need a more honest and open debate on the implications of sexual harassment at work, its effects and punishment for the perpetrators, and the attention provided to the victims.

Power relationships are a key factor in harassment in the workplace. Even though these crimes are punished by Law, victims refuse to accuse their attackers due to the negative consequences such an action could bring to their reputation, their job, and their professional career.

Given the factor or power at play, victims suffering from harassment and abuse in the workplace find it harder to face a legal proceeding because it will not only consume their resources but also put them, initially, at a disadvantage. Our country needs to promote denounces while institutions need to have effective protocols so victims know how to act, knowing they can take legal action without worrying about retaliation.

We have three reasons why we should end harassment and abuse in the workplace: make sure institutions and corporations don't hinder progress on the investigation of the crimes; keep relationships between individuals within the legal and social limits; and ensure the full respect of each person within their work environment. Abuse needs to end.

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