Twelve percent of workers sexually harassed: EOC

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) said on Thursday that a survey it conducted suggests one in eight people have been sexually harassed at work in the past two years.

In what it called the first sizeable poll of its kind, the equality watchdog said it interviewed more than 5,000 adults over three months last year and found that around 11.8 percent reported having been harassed.

Around 15 percent of the female respondents said they had suffered harassment and nine percent of the male respondents.

The EOC added that the figure was significantly higher among younger women, with 22.5 percent of those aged between 18 and 34 reporting abuse.

While most of the victims were harassed by men, the EOC said its survey found that about a quarter of male victims had been harassed by a woman and the rest by a man or multiple people of either gender.

Rizwan Ullah, who heads the EOC’s policy, research and training committee, said men may also experience harassment by other male colleagues because of a lack of awareness.

“I think the environment that they’re in when they come to conversations, their jokes, all these things would gradually fall under dirty jokes, sharing of explicit images, and one of them becomes a victim in the process,” he said at a press conference.

“If you compare between men and women, the males’ awareness on sexual harassment is lower.”

Among the respondents who said they were sexually harassed, 62 percent said sexually suggestive jokes or comments to third parties were made in front of them, while 38 percent said the comments or jokes were made directly at them.

Nearly 23 percent of those surveyed said inappropriate physical contact was made.

The EOC called on all firms to formulate an anti-harassment policy to handle complaints, adding that the government should also do more to make sure employers are doing their part to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace.

Meanwhile, one in six respondents said they had been subjected to online sexual harassment in the past two years, with men making up a slightly higher percentage of the victims.

More than half of the victims said they had received indecent photos or videos, while nearly half said they were sent sexually suggestive messages.