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Uprooting sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is still a constant in the streets, public transportation, school, and the workplace
File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
08/01/2018
08:38
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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Women have increased their presence, in the last 50 years, in virtually all sectors of social life and all professional industries. However, our views and attitudes towards them have changed little. Sexual abuse and harassment are constant in the streets, public transportation, schools, and workplaces.

At work, women may become victims of sexual harassment by both, men in a position of power and their peers. This is an issue which doesn't seem to be dwindling in spite of having more options now to denounce these cases, mainly at Government offices.

EL UNIVERSAL publishes today that in a decade, there were 780 sexual harassment complaints filed at 53 Federal agencies, autonomous organisms, and public universities. In recent years, complaints have grown exponentially. In 2013 there were 24 complaints filed in the Federal public administration; in 2014, 84, yet 2015 saw the most number of complaints with 237. In 2016 there was practically no change, with the number reaching 230, and until October 2017, there were 131 complaints filed.

The consequences for the perpetrator are minor. In most cases, complaints are simply filed, with minimum punishments given – such as temporary work suspension, verbal warnings given in private, relocation, or apologies to the victim.

In the long run, these kinds of resolutions may contribute to a decline in filing complaints. On the contrary, having harsher punishments will strengthen and consolidate this mechanism.

Among public organizations, the National Electoral Institute (INE) is the Federal body which has received the most complaints, 420, followed by the Federal Police (75), the National Autonomous University of Mexico(35), and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (32).

The pressing matter regarding sexual harassment is that women's freedom is restricted and seen as “normal”, mainly in the way they dress and their social life. According to data from the INEGI, a third of women in Mexico believe they shouldn't show their cleavage to avoid being harassed by men, and almost half believe they shouldn't go out to have fun at night.

We have had some progress in handling cases yet we still need that every workplace and school, both private and public, adopt internal mechanisms to help solve sexual harassment cases. As a country, we still owe a great deal to half of the population, our women.

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