A report released by the United Nations on Tuesday showed that one-third of the staff and contractors working at the global body have experienced sexual harassment in the past two years, Reuters reported.
More than half of the 30,364 respondents who experienced sexual harassment said it happened in an office environment and 17.1% said it occurred at a work-related social event. Two out of three harassers were men. Only one in three people said they took action after experiencing sexual harassment.
At least 21.7% of the respondents said they were subjected to sexual stories or offensive jokes and 14.2% said they had to hear offensive remarks about their appearance, body or sexual activities. At least 13% were the target of unwelcome attempts to draw them into a discussion on sexual matters, AFP reproted.
According to the report, 10.9% of the respondents said they were subjected to gestures or body language of a sexual nature that embarrassed or offended them, and 10.1% were touched in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.
The online survey was carried out by Deloitte in November and those who responded made up just 17% of the staff employed at the UN and its agencies. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a letter to his staff, said the response rate as “moderately low.”
“This tells me two things: first – that we still have a long way to go before we are able to fully and openly discuss sexual harassment; and second – that there may also be an ongoing sense of mistrust, perceptions of inaction and lack of accountability,” said Guterres.
The UN chief said the report contains “some sobering statistics and evidence of what needs to change to make a harassment-free workplace real for all of us”.
“As an organisation founded on equality, dignity and human rights, we must lead by example and set the standard,” he added.
The global body has tried to strengthen its mechanism to deal with sexual harassment after several accusations against UN peacekeepers in Africa. The head of the UN agency for HIV and AIDS is set to step down in June, six months before his term ends, after an independent panel concluded that his “defective leadership” tolerated “a culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power”.
In August, a woman who had accused the UN Population Fund’s India representative of sexually harassing her alleged that the global body was obstructing a police investigation into the incident, pointing to its staff members’ immunity from such inquiries.