On Thursday, MEPs adopted the report by 468 votes in favour, 17 against and 125 abstentions. The report highlights that, although governments and organisations have made changes to tackle sexual violence and to support victims since the MeToo movement went viral in 2017, in some EU countries there has been little or no progress.
Parliament calls on member states to pro-actively introduce legislation and policies that tackle sexual violence and harassment. These are not currently defined and criminalised at EU level, which means that those affected do not have the same rights across different member states. MEPs want a common EU approach, reiterating their call for the EU to identify gender-based violence as a new area of crime and for sexual harassment to be a criminal offence.
Employers should take measures to provide a safe working environment, taking into account remote working and the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, say MEPs. Member states should ensure that all workers, at the start of their contract, receive information on anti-harassment procedures and policies in place.
EU institutions need more stringent sanctions and faster procedures
Since 2018, measures to prevent and tackle harassment in the European Parliament have been strengthened, but MEPs say more needs to be done to raise awareness of reporting procedures and support available to victims to prevent all forms of harassment. Sexual and psychological harassment cases in Parliament are still under-reported, MEPs point out, because victims do not use the existing channels for multiple reasons. Procedures in harassment cases can take years, causing unnecessary harm to the victims, they say. Parliament’s two Advisory Committees dealing with harassment complaints should conclude cases brought before them as quickly as possible, and at the latest within six months.
MEPs welcome the anti-harassment training offered in Parliament, but are concerned that only 36.9% of Members have attended so far this term – 260 Members out of 705. They call for a public list on the Parliament’s website of Members that have completed the training and those who have not.
EU institutions should conduct an external audit on the situation of harassment in their institutions, the text notes, including a review of existing procedures and systems that deal with cases of harassment, to make the outcome of the results public and to make reforms based on these recommendations.
EP Vice-President and lead MEP steering the report through Parliament Michal Šimečka (Renew, Slovakia), said: “I welcome the fact that all the democratic groups in the European Parliament take the issue of sexual harassment in the EU seriously, which has resulted in immense support from MEPs during the vote. We owe it to victims and to all European citizens to lead by example, by adopting better support mechanisms and more efficient anti-harassment policies. This proposal is a testament to the broadly shared vision of a harassment-free EU.”