No matter where you are, sexual harassment is always a threat.
None of us would be surprised to hear that a friend has been sexually harassed at work, simply because of how prevalent sexual harassment is in society.
But now we know that the issue is much worse than we thought.
Survey Shows a Whopping 40% of People in S’pore Have Been Sexually Harassed at Work
A survey on workplace sexual harassment shows that 40% of workers in Singapore have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the office in the last five years.
Carried out by market research firm Ipsos and the gender-equality organisation AWARE, the study is the first nationally representative survey on workplace sexual harassment.
1,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents were polled in the online survey in November last year.
According to AWARE, one in three victims were harassed by their boss or someone more senior in the office.
Around one in five said they received crude comments, pictures, texts, or gestures of a sexual or sexist nature.
Around 13% of respondents reported unwanted physical contact, including attempts to initiate romantic or sexual relationships.
These advances often carried implications that career prospects were tied to sexual favours.
Some Harassers Faced No Consequences
Another surprising statistic from the study is that only one in three reported their harassment.
Those who did not report their harassment said they wanted to forget about the incident or believed that what they experienced was not severe enough.
Some also felt there wasn’t enough evidence of the harassment.
And even in instances where harassment was reported, the perpetrator sometimes got away with it.
In 40% of the cases where reports were made, the harasser was reassigned or dismissed.
However, in 20% of these cases, the harasser faced no consequences despite evidence of harassment.
Some Workers Weren’t Sure What Constituted Sexual Harassment
Interestingly, when respondents were asked “Have you been sexually harassed in the workplace within the last five years?”, only 1 in 5 responded in the affirmative.
However, when specific harassment situations were described to them, 2 in 5 reported that they had indeed experienced such behaviours.
This shows that many of us have a low level of awareness of what actually constitutes sexual harassment.
Here are the harassment situations described in the survey:
- Pictures, jokes, texts or gestures of a sexual or sexist nature
- Alarming or offensive remarks or questions about one’s appearance, body or sexual activities
- Crude and distressing remarks, jokes or gestures of a sexual or sexist nature
- Unwanted physical contact, attempts to initiate romantic or sexual relationships, implications that career prospects were tied to sexual favours, and more
A Pervasive Problem
Ms Shailey Hingorani, Head of Research and Advocacy at AWARE, said the study “affirms that workplace sexual harassment is a pervasive and urgent problem”.
“It also affirms that we cannot rely on official cases as our only measure of prevalence, due to frequent under-reporting”, she added.
She noted that while Singapore is ahead of some countries with regard to addressing sexual violence, it has lagged behind when it comes to workplace sexual harassment.
To tackle the widespread problem, AWARE urged the government to introduce national legislation against workplace harassment.
They also believe regular anti-harassment training should be implemented across industries and that grievance handling policies should be universally adopted.
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