REPORT on measures to prevent and combat mobbing and sexual harassment at workplace, in public spaces, and political life in the EU

18.7.2018 - (2018/2055(INI))

Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality
Rapporteur: Pina Picierno

Procedure : 2018/2055(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected :  


on measures to prevent and combat mobbing and sexual harassment at workplace, in public spaces, and political life in the EU


The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Articles 8, 10, 19 and 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which entered into force with the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009[1], and, in particular, Articles 1, 20, 21, 23 and 31 thereof,

–  having regard to the 2014 report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) entitled ‘Violence against women: an EU-wide survey’[2],

–  having regard to Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation[3],

–  having regard to Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services, which defines and condemns harassment and sexual harassment[4],

–  having regard to the Gender Equality Index of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE),

–  having regard to the EIGE publication of June 2017 entitled ‘Cyber violence against women and girls’,

–  having regard to the EU Presidency Trio declaration of 19 July 2017 by Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria on equality between women and men,

–  having regard to the United Nations legal instruments in the field of human rights and notably of women’s rights, such as the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its Protocol, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,

–  having regard to other UN instruments on sexual harassment and violence against women, such as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of 25 June 1993 adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, the Declaration by the United Nations General Assembly on the Elimination of Violence against Women of 20 December 1993, the Resolution on crime prevention and criminal justice measures to eliminate violence against women of 21 July 1997, the reports by the UN Special Rapporteurs on violence against women, and General recommendation No 19 by the CEDAW committee,

–  having regard to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women on 15 September 1995, and to the subsequent outcome documents adopted at the UN Beijing +5 (2000), Beijing +10 (2005), Beijing +15 (2010) and Beijing +20 (2015) special sessions,

–  having regard to Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA (the Victims’ Rights Directive)[5],

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 14 November 2012 for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and related measures (Women on Boards Directive) (COM(2012)0614),

–  having regard to the Framework Agreement on Harassment and Violence at Work of 26 April 2007 between ETUC/CES, BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME and CEEP,

–  having regard to the report of the European Network of Equality Bodies (EQUINET) entitled ‘The Persistence of Discrimination, Harassment and Inequality for Women. The work of equality bodies informing a new European Commission Strategy for Gender Equality’, published in 2015,

–  having regard to the EQUINET report entitled ‘Harassment on the Basis of Gender and Sexual Harassment: Supporting the Work of Equality Bodies’, published in 2014,

–  having regard to the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, in particular Articles 2 and 40 thereof[6], and to Parliament’s resolution of 12 September 2017 on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, by the European Union, of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence[7],

–  having regard to its resolutions of 20 September 2001 on harassment at the workplace[8], of 26 November 2009 on the elimination of violence against women[9], of 5 April 2011 on priorities and outline of a new EU policy framework to fight violence against women[10], of 15 December 2011 on the mid-term review of the European strategy 2007-2012 on health and safety at work[11], of 25 February 2014 with recommendations to the Commission on combating Violence Against Women[12] and the accompanying European Added Value Assessment of November 2013, and of 24 November 2016 on the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women[13],

–  having regard to its resolutions of 14 March 2017 on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2014-2015[14], of 10 March 2015 on progress on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2013[15], and of 24 October 2017 on legitimate measures to protect whistle-blowers acting in the public interest when disclosing the confidential information of companies and public bodies[16],

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 October 2017 on combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU[17],

–  having regard to the European Trade Union Confederation report entitled ‘Safe at home, safe at work – Trade union strategies to prevent, manage and eliminate work-place harassment and violence against women’,

–  having regard to the report for the Meeting of Experts on Violence against Women and Men in the World of Work (3-6 October 2016), organised by the International Labour Organisation,

–  having regard to the study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union entitled ‘Sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians’, published in 2016[18],

–  having regard to the study entitled ‘Bullying and sexual harassment at the workplace, in public spaces, and in political life in the EU’, published by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies in March 2018[19],

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0265/2018),

A.  whereas gender equality is a core value of the EU, recognised in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights; whereas gender-based violence stems from an unequal balance of power and responsibilities in relationships between men and women and is linked to patriarchy and persisting gender-based discrimination;

B.  whereas elderly people, especially older single women, represent a particularly vulnerable social group when facing psychological and physical harassment and bullying;

C.  whereas sexual harassment is defined in Directive 2002/73/EC as ‘where any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature occurs, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’;

D.  whereas that definition should be redrafted in the light of social and technological developments and attitudes, which have all evolved and changed over time;

E.  whereas the fight against harassment on grounds of pregnancy and motherhood is necessary in order to achieve a true work-life balance for women;

F.  whereas sexual harassment is a form of violence and is the most extreme, yet persistent, form of gender-based discrimination; whereas some 90 % of victims of sexual harassment are female and approximately 10 % are male; whereas, according to the EU-wide FRA study of 2014 entitled ‘Violence against women’, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence during their adult lives; whereas up to 55 % of women have been sexually harassed in the EU; whereas 32 % of all victims in the EU reported that the perpetrator was a superior, colleague or customer; whereas 75 % of women in professions requiring specific qualifications or in senior management jobs have been sexually harassed; whereas 61 % of women employed in the service sector have been subjected to sexual harassment; whereas, overall, 5-10 % of the European workforce is at any one time being subjected to bullying at the workplace;

G.  whereas both sexual and psychological harassment are prohibited in employment at EU level, including in relation to access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and come under health and safety considerations;

H.  whereas it is the responsibility of the EU institutions and agencies to keep improving the mechanisms in place by implementing the most efficient rules in order to raise awareness of the definition of sexual harassment and protect workers;

I.  whereas cases of sexual harassment are significantly underreported due to low social awareness of the issue, fear and shame associated with talking to other people about the topic, fear of dismissal, difficulties in obtaining evidence, insufficient reporting, monitoring and victim-protection channels, and the normalisation of violence;

J.  whereas reporting sexual harassment at work can in many cases lead to the victim’s dismissal or isolation within the workplace; whereas less serious offences, when left unchallenged, provide motivation for more serious offences;

K.  whereas bullying and sexual harassment continue to represent serious problems in a variety of social settings, including the workplace, public spaces, virtual spaces such as the internet, and political life, and are increasingly being carried out using new technologies, for example websites or social networks, enabling perpetrators to feel safe under cover of anonymity;

L.  whereas in the context of emerging new forms of organisation of work and social life and a blurring of the boundaries between private, professional and social life, negative behaviour towards individuals or social groups may intensify; whereas workplace bullying can very often take a variety of forms, occurring within both vertical relationships (perpetrated by a superior or by subordinates) and horizontal relationships (perpetrated by work colleagues on the same rung of the hierarchy);

M.  whereas sexual and psychological harassment are phenomena that involve victims and perpetrators of all ages, educational and cultural backgrounds, incomes and social statuses, and whereas this phenomenon has physical, sexual, emotional and psychological consequences for the victim; whereas gender stereotypes and sexism, including sexist hate speech, offline and online, are root causes of many forms of violence and discrimination against women and prevent women’s empowerment;

N.  whereas the Victims’ Rights Directive defines gender-based violence as a violation of the fundamental freedoms of the victim and includes sexual violence (including rape, sexual assault and harassment); whereas female victims of gender-based violence and their children often require special support and protection because of the high risk of repeat victimisation, intimidation and retaliation connected with such violence;

O.  whereas violence in the world of work is often addressed in a piecemeal fashion, which mainly focuses on more visible forms, such as physical violence; whereas, however, sexual and psychological harassment can have even more destructive effects on the individual concerned;

P.  whereas the acts of sexism and resulting sexual harassment to which women may be subjected in the workplace are a contributing factor in driving them out of the labour market, which has an adverse effect on their economic independence and family income;

Q.  whereas women who are victims of harassment and violence in rural and remote areas in the EU usually have more difficulty obtaining full assistance and protection from aggressors;

R.  whereas the effects of both physical and verbal harassment, including such acts perpetrated online, are harmful not only in the short term, but also in the long term, and can include, for example, stress and severe clinical depression and even drive victims to suicide, as has been shown by the increase in reports of such cases; whereas, in addition to negative health outcomes, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace also have negative impacts on an individual’s career, on organisations and on society, such as increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and service quality, and the loss of human capital;

S.  whereas EU law requires Member States and EU institutions and agencies to ensure that an equality body is in place to provide independent assistance to victims of harassment, conduct independent surveys, collect relevant, disaggregated and comparable data, conduct research on definitions and classifications, publish independent reports and make recommendations on matters of employment and training, on access to and the supply of goods and services, and for the self-employed;

T.  whereas women in the EU are not equally protected against gender-based violence and sexual and psychological harassment owing to differing policies and legislation across the Member States; whereas judicial systems do not always provide sufficient support to women; whereas the perpetrators of gender-based violence are often already known to the victim, and whereas, in many cases, the victim is in a position of dependence, which exacerbates their fear of reporting the violence;

U.  whereas all Member States have signed the Istanbul Convention, but not all have ratified it, and whereas this delay is impeding the full implementation of the Convention;

V.  whereas sexism and the sexual and psychological harassment of women parliamentarians is real and widespread; whereas the perpetrators of harassment and violence not only belong to the ranks of political opponents, but can also be members of the same political party, as well as religious leaders, local authorities, and even family members;

W.  whereas politicians, as elected representatives of citizens, have a crucial responsibility to act as positive role models in preventing and combating sexual harassment in society;

X.  whereas the legitimacy of women in the political sphere is still sometimes challenged, and whereas women are victims of stereotypes, which discourage them from engaging in politics, a phenomenon that is particularly conspicuous wherever women in politics are less represented;

Y.  whereas neither all national and regional parliaments, nor all local councils have specific structures and internal rules in place establishing proper channels for ensuring the safe, confidential lodging and treatment of harassment complaints; whereas training on sexual and psychological harassment should be compulsory for all staff and members of parliament, including the European Parliament;

Z.  whereas domestic violence is also a workplace issue, as it can impact on the victim’s work participation, work performance and safety;

AA.  whereas sexual and psychological harassment not only take place at work, but also in public spaces, including in formal and informal educational settings, in healthcare and leisure facilities, in the streets and on public transport;

AB.  whereas cyber stalking and cyber harassment involve the use of information and communications technologies to stalk, harass, control, or manipulate a person; whereas cyber harassment is a particular problem for young women due to their greater use of these mediums; whereas 20 % of young women (between the ages of 18 and 29) in the EU-28 have experienced cyber harassment;

AC.  whereas a 2016 study found that more than half the women polled had experienced some form of sexual harassment in UK workplaces, but that four in five had not reported the harassment to their employer[20];

AD.  whereas new technologies also have the potential to be an ally in analysing, understanding and preventing instances of violence;

AE.  whereas women, young women in particular, are being subjected to bullying and sexual harassment involving the use of new technologies, for example websites and social networks, sometimes organised through secret forums or groups on social media; whereas such acts include rape threats, death threats, hacking attempts, and publication of private information and photos; whereas, in the context of the widespread use of online and social media, an estimated one in ten girls had already experienced a form of cyber violence, including cyberstalking and harassment, by the age of 15; whereas women who have a public role, among others journalists and in particular LGBTI and disabled women, are a prime target for cyberbullying and online violence, and whereas some have had to leave social networks as a result, having experienced physical fear, stress, concentration problems, fear of going home and worry for loved ones;

AF.  whereas prevention of harassment in working environments can only be achieved when both private and public companies create a culture in which women are treated as equals and employees treat one another with respect;

AG.  whereas research has shown that harassment is rife in workplaces where men dominate management and women have little power, such as the entertainment and media industries, but that it also happens in technology and law companies, sales and many other sectors if male-dominated management teams tolerate sexualised treatment of workers; whereas companies with more women in management have less sexual harassment;

General recommendations

1.  Strongly condemns all kinds of violence against women (VAW) as described in CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention;

2.  Stresses that sexual harassment is a violation of human rights linked to patriarchal power structures that need to be reshaped as a matter of urgency;

3.  Highlights the central role of all men in ending all forms of harassment and sexual violence; calls on the Commission and all Member States to actively involve men in awareness-raising and prevention campaigns, as well as education campaigns for gender equality; stresses that prevention campaigns also need to focus on less serious offences;

4.  Maintains that awareness-raising measures and campaigns to prevent violence against girls and women have to extend to boys as well and should be organised during the initial stages of education;

5.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to monitor the correct implementation of the EU directives prohibiting sexual harassment;

6.  Calls on the Member States to develop comprehensive national action plans and legislation on VAW, paying due attention to providing adequate resources, including but not limited to staff training and sufficient funding, for equality bodies;

7.  Calls on the Commission to compile examples of best practices in combating sexual and psychological harassment and harassment on grounds of pregnancy and motherhood in the workplace and in other spheres, and to disseminate the results of this assessment widely;

8.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure proper and adequate funding mechanisms for programmes and actions to combat sexual and psychological harassment against women at all levels, focusing in particular on the use of new technologies and the means provided by innovation, for example through greater investment in research and innovation processes seeking to stamp out this phenomenon;

9.  Calls on the European Ombudswoman to collect data on the different protection rules existing within the EU institutions and agencies and to issue binding conclusions in order to harmonise the rules with best standards;

10.  Regrets that some Member States have not yet ratified the Istanbul Convention and calls on all Member States that have not already done so to ratify and fully implement it without delay; calls, furthermore, on the Member States that have already ratified the Istanbul Convention to fully implement it;

11.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to obtain a clear picture of the issue of sexual harassment across the EU with better and scientifically more robust studies, including new challenges such as cyber bullying;

12.  Welcomes the new widespread public debate, including on social media, which is contributing to redrawing the boundaries in relation to sexual harassment and acceptable behaviours; welcomes, in particular, initiatives such as the #MeToo movement and strongly supports all the women and girls who have participated in the campaign, including those who have denounced their perpetrators;

13.  Calls on the Commission to submit a legislative proposal to combat mobbing and sexual harassment in the workplace, in public spaces and in political life, and to include in it an updated and comprehensive definition of harassment (be it sexual or otherwise) and mobbing;

14.  Stresses the need to combat the persistent and prolonged harassment or intimidation of workers which causes or is intended to cause their humiliation or isolation or exclude them from their team of co-workers;

15.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States, in cooperation with Eurostat and the EIGE, to improve, promote and ensure the systematic collection of relevant, gender- and age-disaggregated, comparable data on cases of sexual and gender-based discrimination and psychological harassment, including cyber harassment, at national, regional and local level; encourages employers’ organisations, trade unions and employers to actively participate in the data collection process, by providing sector- and occupation-specific expertise;

16.  Notes that to obtain comparable figures on the prevalence of sexual harassment and bullying across the Member States, greater awareness and recognition of the problems should be prioritised through concerted efforts to spread information and provide training;

17.  Reiterates its call on the Commission to submit a proposal for a directive to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls and gender-based violence, which should include common definitions of the different types of VAW, including an updated and comprehensive definition of harassment (be it sexual or otherwise) and mobbing, and common legal standards on criminalising VAW; calls on the Commission to present a comprehensive EU strategy against all forms of gender-based violence, including the sexual harassment and abuse of women and girls, drawing on testimonies in the form of women’s stories and first-hand experience;

18.  Calls on Member States to provide adequate public funding to ensure that law enforcement officers, judges and all civil servants who deal with cases of bullying and sexual harassment are trained to understand violence and harassment in the workplace and beyond;

19.  Calls on Member States to guarantee high-quality, easily accessible and adequately funded specialised services for victims of gender-based violence and sexual and psychological harassment, and to acknowledge that these manifestations of VAW are interconnected and that they have to be tackled via a holistic approach seeking both to cover the socio-cultural aspects that give rise to VAW and to enable specialised services to equip themselves with technological prevention and management tools;

20.  Calls on Member States and local and regional governments to provide for adequate plans and resources in order to guarantee that victims of violence and harassment in rural and remote areas are not deprived of access, or restricted in their access, to assistance and protection;

21.  Calls on the Commission to tackle emerging forms of gender-based violence, such as online harassment, by expanding the definition of illegal hate speech as defined in EU law in the Framework Decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law to include misogyny, and to ensure that the Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech also covers these crimes; calls for the development of educational programmes to encourage women to improve their skills in using the new technologies, so that they can better face all forms of sexual harassment and bullying in cyberspace, and encourages specialised services to work together to set up data and resource systems capable of monitoring and analysing the problem of gender-based violence without infringing on the new General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679);

22.  Condemns, furthermore, the widespread occurrence of sexual harassment and other types of abuse, especially in online gaming and social media, and encourages media companies and operators to monitor and respond without delay to any instances of harassment; calls, therefore, for different measures, including awareness-raising, special training and internal rules on disciplinary sanctions for offenders, and psychological and/or legal support for victims of these practices, to prevent and combat bullying and sexual harassment at work as well as in online environments;

Violence in the workplace

23.  Stresses the urgent need for Member States, local and regional authorities, employers’ organisations and trade unions to understand the barriers women face in reporting cases of sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and violence, and, therefore, to offer full support and encouragement to women in reporting cases of sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, harassment on grounds of pregnancy and motherhood and bullying, among others, without fear of possible consequences, and establish mechanisms that empower and support women in the safe reporting of cases of abuse;

24.  Calls on the Member States to implement active and effective policies to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women, including sexual harassment and acts of sexism and mobbing to which the majority of women are subjected in the workplace;

25.  Emphasises the urgent need for standards on violence and harassment at work, which should provide a legislative framework for governments, employers, companies and trade union action at all levels;

26.  Notes that some sectors and occupations have a higher exposure to violence, particularly healthcare, public emergency services, politics, education, transport, domestic work, agriculture and the rural economy, as well as the textiles, clothing, leather and footwear sectors;

27.  Notes that some groups of workers can be more affected by bullying and violence in the workplace, especially pregnant women and parents, women with disabilities, migrant women, indigenous women, LGBTI people and women working part-time, as trainees or on temporary contracts;

28.  Notes that undesirable behaviour may stem simultaneously from different sources or relate simultaneously to professional, private or social life, which has a negative effect on all the individuals, professional groups or social groups in those spheres;

29.  Calls on Member States to introduce measures to prevent and combat violence and harassment at the workplace through policies which set out prevention measures, effective, transparent and confidential procedures to deal with complaints, strong and dissuasive sanctions for perpetrators, comprehensive information and training courses to ensure that workers understand policies and procedures, and support for companies to draw up action plans to implement all these measures; stresses that these measures should not be incorporated into existing structures if these structures already have inbuilt gender barriers;

30.  Calls on Member States to invest in the training of labour inspectors, in collaboration with specialist psychologists, and ensure that companies and organisations provide skilled professional and psychosocial support for victims;

31.  Calls on Member States and social partners to ensure that both public and private companies and organisations organise mandatory training on sexual harassment and bullying for all employees and those in management roles; stresses that effective training should be interactive, continuous, tailored to the particular workplace and given by external experts;

32.  Highlights the serious underreporting of cases of harassment and stresses the importance of the presence of trained confidential counsellors in every organisation to support victims, assist with reporting and provide legal assistance;

33.  Stresses that companies should have a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment and policies conducive to it, and that companies must ensure that all employees are aware of these policies, reporting procedures and their rights and responsibilities in relation to sexual harassment in the workplace;

34.  Calls on media companies to protect and support journalists who are victims of cyberbullying and to adopt a series of good practices such as awareness-raising campaigns, adequate training of management including on preventing victim blaming and secondary victimisation, measures to improve cybersecurity, and the provision of legal support in lodging a complaint to the person concerned;

35.  Calls on the Member States to take measures to ensure equal pay between women and men, as a means of avoiding the abuse of power and promoting gender equality and respect for human dignity, which is fundamental to combating VAW; stresses that equal pay should be guaranteed through pay transparency, and by upholding the right to information for presumed victims, ensuring equal treatment and employment opportunities between women and men, and ensuring and facilitating women’s access to decision-making and senior management posts, in both the public and private sectors, thus ensuring a balanced representation of women on boards of directors; calls on the Commission and the Council, therefore, to step up their efforts to unblock the Women on Boards Directive, which has been on hold in the Council since 2013;

36.  Considers that a comprehensive approach to violence in the workplace is necessary, which should include the acknowledgement of the co-existence of bullying, sexual harassment and harassment on grounds of pregnancy and motherhood with various forms of unpaid work in the formal and informal economies (such as subsistence agriculture, food preparation, care for children and the elderly) and a range of work experience schemes (such as apprenticeships, internships and voluntary work);

37.  Calls for the swift adoption of the revision of the Written Statement Directive (Council Directive 91/533/EEC); reiterates its call for a directive on decent working conditions, which should cover measures to combat mobbing and sexual harassment in the workplace;

38.  Acknowledges that domestic violence often spills over into the workplace, with a negative impact on workers’ lives and the productivity of enterprises, and that this spillover can also go in the opposite direction, from the workplace to home; calls, in this context, on the Commission to provide guidance on the applicability of European protection orders in the workplace and to clarify the issue of employers’ responsibilities;

39.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to recognise the phenomenon of harassment on grounds of pregnancy and motherhood in employment;

Violence in political life

40.  Calls on all politicians to be held to the highest standards of conduct and act as responsible role models in preventing and combating sexual harassment in parliaments and beyond;

41.  Condemns all forms of harassment against female politicians on social media in the form of ‘trolling’, involving the posting of sexist and abusive messages, including death and rape threats;

42.  Stresses the importance of establishing cross-party policies and procedures to protect individuals elected to political office, as well as employees;

43.  Acknowledges that parity lists at all levels play a key role in enabling the participation of women in politics and reshaping power structures that discriminate against women; calls on the Member States to introduce such lists for elections to the European Parliament;

44.  Calls on all political parties, including those represented in the European Parliament, to take concrete steps to tackle this problem, including the introduction of action plans and the revision of internal party regulations to introduce a zero-tolerance policy, preventive measures, procedures to deal with complaints and adequate sanctions for perpetrators of sexual harassment and the bullying of women in politics;

45.  Calls on national and regional parliaments and on local councils to fully support victims in the framework of internal procedures and/or with the police, to investigate cases, to maintain a confidential register of cases over time, to ensure mandatory training for all staff and members on respect and dignity, and to adopt other best practices to guarantee zero tolerance at all levels in their respective institutions;

46.  Urges all its relevant actors to ensure the comprehensive and swift implementation of its 2017 resolution on combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU; considers it its duty to ensure zero tolerance of sexual harassment and to adequately protect and support the victims; calls, in this respect, for:

–  a task force of independent experts to examine the situation of sexual harassment and abuse in Parliament;

–  an evaluation and, if necessary, revision of the composition of Parliament’s competent bodies to ensure independence and gender balance;

–  mandatory training for all staff and Members;

–  a clear timeline for the comprehensive implementation of all the demands made in the resolution;

47.  Calls on politicians to encourage management training and to attend the training themselves in order to avoid laissez-faire attitudes on the part of leadership and to identify situations in which VAW occurs;

Violence in public spaces

48.  Calls on the Commission to come up with a definition of public space, taking into account evolving communication technologies, and therefore to include in that definition ‘virtual’ public spaces such as social networks and websites;

49.  Calls on Member States to consider introducing specific legislation on harassment in public spaces, including intervention programmes, with a specific focus on the role of intervention on the part of bystanders;

50.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to carry out further research into the causes and consequences of sexual harassment in public spaces, including the impact that sexist and stereotyped advertisements may have on the incidence of violence and harassment;

51.  Highlights that awareness-raising campaigns combating gender stereotypes and patriarchal power relations and promoting zero tolerance of sexual harassment are among the best tools in helping to address gender-based violence in public spaces;

52.  Highlights that education on gender equality at every level is a fundamental tool in avoiding and eliminating these forms of misconduct, changing mindsets and reducing cultural tolerance of sexism and sexual harassment; emphasises the need to introduce educational programmes and debates on the topic in schools; notes that, in cooperation with relevant NGOs and equality bodies, these programmes and debates should, where necessary and appropriate, include information and discussions on the prevention of and measures against sexual harassment, in order to raise awareness of victims’ rights and to remind people of its links with the objectification of women;

53.  Calls on the Member States to encourage awareness-raising campaigns in secondary schools and to include the issue of cyberbullying in educational curricula in schools and universities; calls, in particular, for the successful Delete Cyberbullying campaign and Safer Internet initiative to be continued, with a view to combating bullying and sexual harassment in order to help young people, future citizens of the EU, to understand the need to move closer to gender equality and to respect women;

54.  Calls on Member States to establish a report system in schools to keep track of all cases of cyberbullying;

55.  Notes that some measures taken in Member States have proven effective at reducing harassment in public spaces, such as formal surveillance (increasing the presence of police and/or transport staff on public transport, closed-circuit television (CCTV)) and natural surveillance (better visibility and improved lighting);

56.  Calls on Member States to remind internet service providers of their duty to protect their online consumers by addressing cases of repetitive abuse or stalking in order to protect the victim, inform the perpetrator that they cannot act with impunity, and thus change the perpetrator’s behaviour;

57.  Calls on the Member States, with the aid of IT experts and appropriate supervisory bodies, for example postal police forces, to exercise greater scrutiny over websites in order to protect victims of bullying and sexual harassment and, where necessary, prevent and punish offences;

58.  Calls on the Member States to employ the means necessary to eliminate language used in the media, politics and public discourse that encourages violent behaviour and disparages women, thereby violating their human dignity;

59.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to harmonise their legislation and their definition of gender-based violence in line with the definition of VAW in the Istanbul Convention, in order to increase the effectiveness of laws against harassment and mobbing;

60.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to improve the monitoring mechanisms for the adequate implementation of EU legislation prohibiting sexual harassment and to ensure that equality bodies in each Member State have sufficient resources to act against discrimination;


°  °

61.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.


Sexual harassment and mobbing are two of the most extreme yet widespread forms of gender-based discrimination, for which 90% of the victims are female. Up to 55% of women have been sexually harassed in the EU and one in ten women have been subjected to sexual harassment or stalking using new technologies. Despite the fact that sexual violence and harassment represent a blatant disregard for gender equality, and therefore a contradiction to one of the EU’s core values and many decades’ worth of comprehensive international legislation, they are a very real and persistent problem in almost every country in the world.

The legislation enacted to address violence and harassment varies across the EU, reflecting social, cultural, legal, and administrative differences in Member States – especially in terms of health and safety at work. Most Member States deal with violence and harassment through equal treatment legislation or general labour law rather than through specific occupational safety and health (OSH) legislation. These differences are also reflected in the varying definitions of sexual harassment, violence, and mobbing. Working towards an EU-wide approach on defining violence against women, and studying its causes and consequences is essential for EU-level initiatives.

Sexual harassment is defined in EU law as ‘where any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature occurs, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’. Furthermore, the Victims’ Rights Directive defines gender-based violence as a violation of the fundamental freedoms of the victim and includes sexual violence (including rape, sexual assault and harassment).

Sexual harassment and mobbing are phenomena that involve victims and perpetrators of all ages, educational backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses. It has its roots in gender stereotyping and sexism, including sexist hate speech, which can give rise to further forms of demoralising violence affecting not only the victim themselves but also their family.

The differences between Member States in defining sexual harassment and violence and drawing up legislation on it impacts whether or not a case is considered a violation of someone’s dignity and thus whether it will be reported as a case of violence and harassment. For example, women do not always realise that the action taken against them constitutes sexual harassment or mobbing and will therefore not report it. Furthermore, many victims of violence and harassment do not take legal action because of the limited prospects of success or because of the risk of retaliation. Underreporting is thus a common problem across the world, including the EU.

The main reasons for low acknowledgement of sexual harassment and mobbing at the country level include a lack of awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment, few appropriate tools/methods for assessing and managing the issue, low prioritisation of the issue by governments and organisations, limited scientific evidence, and few specific regulations on the matter.

Often, in the workplace, sexual harassment and mobbing can be exacerbated by problems such as the working structure of a company or organisation, incompetent management, the social vulnerabilities of the target, a negative or hostile environment, and a culture which accepts or even inadvertently rewards harassment.

In terms of political life, violence against women is often used to discourage women from being or becoming active in politics. Worldwide campaigns combatting violence against women in politics, such as #NotTheCost have emerged. The discouragements stem from the stereotype that women are not cut out for politics and such attitudes hinder many women from engaging in politics. Those perpetuating these ideas range from political adversaries, to dissatisfied citizens, sometimes including other dominant authority figures such as religious leaders or even members of the person’s own family.

Although sexual harassment in public spaces is widespread, it is often not reported and not covered by research or appropriate legislation. It may happen on public transport, in the street, in bars and restaurants. It also happens in online forums, since the expansion in access to new technologies has created even more possibilities for harassment and violence in every level and area of society and for perpetrators to act with impunity due to online anonymity.

Sexual harassment and mobbing can have lasting damaging effects on the victims, including profound implications on psychological (anxiety and fear), and physical (bruising, wounds and even death) health. The individual consequences of workplace harassment can vary from minor stress episodes to long-term sick leave, and may sometimes even be a cause of suicide. Furthermore, violence does not only have an impact on the victim but also his/her family. Female victims of gender-based violence and their children often require special support and protection because of the high risk of repeat harassment and violence.

As this report demonstrates, there is an urgent need for increased knowledge, for example through the collection of relevant disaggregated comparable data, and understanding of the risks and consequences of violence and harassment at work, in public spaces, and in political life in order to find possible ways and methods to address them. It is also necessary to clarify the terms, definitions and classifications used in relation to different types of sexual and gender-based violence.


Date adopted





Result of final vote







Members present for the final vote

Maria Arena, Heinz K. Becker, Malin Björk, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Iratxe García Pérez, Anna Hedh, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Florent Marcellesi, Angelika Mlinar, Krisztina Morvai, Maria Noichl, Margot Parker, Marijana Petir, Pina Picierno, Liliana Rodrigues, Michaela Šojdrová, Ernest Urtasun, Elissavet Vozemberg-Vrionidi, Anna Záborská, Maria Gabriela Zoană

Substitutes present for the final vote

Lívia Járóka, Kostadinka Kuneva, Clare Moody, Mylène Troszczynski

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Cornelia Ernst





Angelika Mlinar


Malin Björk, Cornelia Ernst, Kostadinka Kuneva


Krisztina Morvai


Heinz K. Becker, Lívia Járóka, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Elissavet Vozemberg-Vrionidi


Maria Arena, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Iratxe García Pérez, Anna Hedh, Clare Moody, Maria Noichl, Pina Picierno, Liliana Rodrigues, Maria Gabriela Zoană


Florent Marcellesi, Ernest Urtasun








Margot Parker


Mylène Troszczynski


Marijana Petir, Michaela Šojdrová, Anna Záborská

Key to symbols:

+  :  in favour

-  :  against

0  :  abstention

Last updated: 29 August 2018
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