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    Sexual harassment between provocation and acceptance

  
  Following a study of the Center for Partnership and Equality – CPE, on sexual harassment in our country, it was clear that we did not know specifically what this crime refers to, that we ignore or silently accept the practices which may be the purpose of sexual harassment and, least but not last, how superficially we treat this subject!!
  This does not mean that we are the only Neanderthals within the area: if you worked in France, you would have to be harassed repeatedly to have your complaint accepted; within our vicinity – Check Republic – sexual gestures are natural for habitual work relationships, in Russia they laugh at you if you present such a complaint; in England they shall verify first if you ever have had an affair (it can be platonic – it does not matter!!!) with that colleague you filed the complaint against (it can be a she-colleague, Demi Moore proved us that it can be possible...) to exclude the possibility to file a complaint to get even with him/her for breaking such relationship ... However, in the Unites States of America you can insure your retirement fund out of damages following such a law case. It is funny?! When you have two children that, as you, are waiting for your paycheck, you do not find another job on short or medium term, and your boss harasses you, threatening to fire you, your fun becomes a drama!
  
  In order to prevent/act we have to know the main issue. Here are the definitions of Romanian legislation and certain documents of European Union:
  
  Art 4 letter c) by sexual harassment we understand any form of behavior connected to sex, the person acting in this regard knows that it affects dignity of people involved, if this behavior is refused and it is the ground for a decision that affects those person; (The law no. 202 as of April 19th 2002 concerning the equality of opportunity between men and women)
  
  Art. 2031. - (1) The harassment of a person, threatening or constraint to obtain sexual satisfaction, by a person that abuses of the influence or authority his position offers, is punished with prison for a period varying from 3 months to 2 years or a fine. (Penal Code)
  
  In European documents, harassment is defined as: “any form of unwanted sexual, verbal, non-verbal or physical behavior, which takes place under the purpose or effect to violate somebody’s dignity, especially when a hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive work environment is determined”.
  
  
   In all normative deeds, definitions leave room for interpretation, everybody understands what he/she wants or what he/she has interests to … Psychologically speaking it is absolutely explicable, we have our limits of perception and acceptability, this is the reason why gestures that can be interpreted as flirt by a certain person, can be interpreted as harassment by another person. In case you simply touch an Islamic lady arm it can be considered that you offended her dignity !!!!
  
   Sexual harassment can have many different forms, physical (the worst of them can be interpreted as corporal damage if they involve a certain amount of violence) up to psychical ones. According to the same study, the most frequently are:
  - verbal (unwanted or suggestive comments, explicit sexual, anatomical or aesthetic comments)
  - physical (touches, caresses, fingering, kisses)
  - mimic and gestures or postural (suggestive sexual gestures, gestures with the hand, fingers, arms, the whole body);
  - graphical (pornographic pictures, unwanted love letters)
  - psychological (the most difficult to prove)
  - "Quid pro quo" – sexual favors to keep the job or (why not) for a promotion
  All these gestures and/or attitudes can be explicit or implicit, violent or not.
  
  In one of these cases, according to Law 202/2002 :
  “Art. 33.
   (1) The employees have the right, in case that they considered themselves sexually discriminated to present notifications, complaints, or objections to the employer or against it, in case that it is directly involved and to request the support of the trade union or of the employees’ representatives to settle the matter within the place of work.
  (2) In case that this notification/complaint was not settled within the place of work by mediation, the employee who justifies that his/her rights were offended during working schedule, based of the provisions of the hereby law, has the right to file a complaint with the competent courts of law, to the offices or completes specialized for work litigations or social security within the territorial competence the employer or the person responsible develops his/her activity or, as the case may be, to the administrative solicitor’s office, however, not later than one year since the fact produced.
  (3) By the complaint introduced under the conditions provided in line (2) the employed person who considers herself/himself sexually discriminated, has the right to require moral and/or material damages, as well as and/or elimination of the consequences of discriminatory facts from the person who is responsible for the respective facts.
  Art. 35. – The competent court of law informed on a certain litigation, in order to enforce the provisions of the hereby law, can, by itself, to decide that the persons responsible should put an end to the discriminatory situation within a period of time it establishes.
  Art. 36.
   (1) The court of law can decide that the culprit person should pay damages to the person who considers sexually discriminated and presents his/her claims in front of a court of law, in an amount which reflects the damage done.
  (2) The value of the prejudice is established by the court of law according to common right.
  Art. 37.
   (1) The employer who reintegrates in its offices or place of work a person, who, based on a definitive decision of a court of law, within the meaning of the hereby law provisions, has the obligation to pay the remuneration lost due to unilateral amendment of labor relationships or of work conditions, as well as all payment duties to the state budget and to the budget of social security, are both the responsibility of the employer and the employee.
  (2) If it is not possible to reintegrate in the employer’s offices or place of work a person for whom an unilateral and unjustified decision of a court of law, established that the employer changed his/her labor relationships or of work conditions, the employer shall pay the employer a damage equal to the prejudice done to the employee.
  (3) The amount of the damage shall be established according to the law.
  Art. 38.
   (1) The complaints of people that consider they are sexually discriminated, presented to the competent courts of law, shall not pay the stamp duty.
  (2) Trade unions and nongovernmental organizations which pursue human rights protection can represent discriminated persons in front of courts of justice, at those persons’ request.
  (3) Trade unions and nongovernmental organizations which can represent in front of courts of justice discriminated persons introduce the action free of charge when the discriminated person does not dispose of the financial means necessary.
  
  In case that the respective persons can not find justice by these means, the victim has the right to introduce a complaint to the national Agency for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men. Evidence presented may be the copies of any written materials that prove the harassment – photos, e-mails, notes, presents, a diary comprising dates, names, conversations, witnesses, how often these offending behaviors produced.
  
  We can consider that, legally and judiciary, sexual harassment is clearly established. But how about morally and psychologically?
  The Americans have established the best the issue that belongs to sexual harassment problem: POWER! This does not mean that this category comprises only that harassment of a chief (he/she may be of any gender) to the subordinate; harassment can appear between colleagues hierarchically equal, it can be provoked by a client, a teacher, public officer, etc., but 99% of the cases they involve the idea of power, of psychological advantage over the victim. The actions of the aggressor are facilitated by the public perception on the victim involved; in case that the victim decides to follow legal thread to settle the situation, his/her life would become a public debate, any sexual error he/she has ever done, any minor deviation to good manners shall be severely criticized and used against him/her. As a matter of fact, this “public judgment” brings most of the victims and offers the aggressor power and freedom.
  
  Usually, victims prefer to abandon the respective job, trying to forget and avoid public denigration and to keep everything secret from their family. HOWEVER, the aggressor considers that the harassment was only « a joke, a consideration, the manifestation of a normal sentiment », this is the reason why he/she considers normal to tell, in a different manner, favorable to him/her concerning the development of a love relationship at the place of work … The family shall find out anyhow, colleagues in the new place of work shall judge depending on the only public variant (of the aggressor) and only other eventual aggressors shall take into consideration a new attack thinking that he/she has an open way to harassment as to the other did not happened anything!!! In extreme cases the effects of sexual harassment can lead even to a divorce, social insulation and major changes in the life of the victim: activity area, geographical area, etc, and, in certain insulated cases even to suicide.
  IT is much easier to stop the « advances » (of a chief, client, professor, etc) when they are flirting than you be obliged to change your entire way of life.
  It is nice to have an intelligent discussion using double meaning words, to have a relaxed atmosphere in your office, you can discuss anything with your chief or colleagues, but you have to be sure that the other ones understood exactly what it was all about and they did not interpret your opening to them as frivol behavior. A large neckline, a mini skirt and sexual discussions shall immediately say: I AM AVAILABLE! Are you not willing to send that message? Try to be more professional not only in your results, but in the way you approach your work relationships! I do not make EXCUSES FOR THE AGGRESSORS, I do not justify their gestures (which is inadmissible and dishonoring for a civilized person) but I can not notice that, for many times, in your work relationship, we are trying to be feminine (or strongly masculine), we send other types of messages that the ones we want. We are still people with very large shortcuts in communication, willing to spare the person near us, we talk to him/her for 30 minutes about ash, water, toilet, napkins, mirror before we tell him/her that she/he has got a little soot spot which should be washed; in case of the most important subjects we live a real drama before we talk about them. This is the reason why, more than the other Europeans, we should self-censure our appearance, gestures, words and to impose other people to respect them (even if they are not used to such) .
  
  From my point of view, it is more inappropriate to cover harassment cases than harassment in itself. To be hones with you, I would like that « the indifference and lack of action » in case of « discrete » witnesses to be considered as complicity to the crime, at least considering its facility!
  I have explained above why victims prefer to keep silent, it is obvious why he/she covers the crime of the aggressor, how about the colleagues?! But Human Resources Department ? the chief of the aggressor?! Have we all got blind?! The gesture to spank the secretary when she leaves the office is not professional consideration, it is the beginning of such unprofessional relationship at the office (it shall soon spoil the whole atmosphere in the office and it will influence the activity of each member of the team) or of a sexual harassment. I do not want to work in a company where I hear n times a day the spank on the secretary’s back (if she appreciates it, she should change her place of work near the entrance of Bucharest). Why ? First of all, out of egoism : tomorrow this spank can be on my back, of my best friend back, or on any back in the company, until a respectable lady in the company spanked files a complaint concerning the respective gesture. Then, « my dignity » would vanish in front of a disciplinary council or (even worse) of a court of law, as I silently accepted certain sexual harassment gestures! In my resume I shall have a company known to the public for the sexual harassment scandal, I shall have to explain thousands of times to each new colleague, each new employer, each friend, each curious relative, and each inquisitive neighbor to avoid «an erroneous evaluation of my behavior». All these what for ? Because I have accessorily kept silent at the first spank I witnessed involuntary.
  Naturally, there is the harassment of behind closed doors, almost impossible to prove, with « persuasion » methods, most of them physical, which, in the mean time become actually a rape. However, with this subject we get into another issue, 100% criminal, which are not the purpose of this article.
  
  Closing, as a conclusion of those we have discussed so far, I insert several conclusions of the CPE study concerning the perception of the Romanians on facts which can be considered as sexual harassment:
  
  „
  As far as you know, is there in Romania a law
  which punishes all the facts enumerated above?
  

© 2008 Nefertiti Human Capital Consulting
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