Protesters urge trade union movement to tackle sexual harassment

One of Ireland’s leading feminist movements has said more trade unions are needed to tackle workplace sexual harassment.

Rosa (for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity), a group initiated by women in the Socialist Party, demonstrated in Henry Street, Dublin, on Friday, against what they say is an epidemic of sexual harassment.

Statistics released by market researchers and pollsters WIN International in March this year said that Irish women reported the highest level of sexual harassment in Europe, with 32% of Irish women between the ages of 18 and 34 saying they had experienced some form of sexual harassment within the previous 12 months.

Reported sexual offences are also increasing – in 2018 3,182 sex crimes were recorded by Gardai, a 26% increase on 2017.

The group marched from Henry Street across Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin, to Temple Bar, carrying signs that read: “I’m your employee, not your property” and “Organise in the workplace against sexual harassment”.

Solidarity MEP candidate Rita Harrold, one of the march organisers, said that women have conditioned themselves to ignore abuse, and it must be called out.

“Sexual harassment is the norm on our streets, in our homes and in our workplaces,” she said.

“We’re specifically calling for the trade union movement to take up the issue of workplace sexual harassment.

“You’re very vulnerable and at real risk if you’re in a low-paid position or your boss or customer is your harasser.

“We’re calling for a 15 euro-an-hour minimum wage and unions to organise in bars and restaurants, so we can stand confidently and say ‘We’re not on the menu’.

“There is a real need to get into the un-unionised workplaces, and expand into these positions, the service industry for instance, who are very vulnerable because they don’t have union recognition.

“We saw with the Google walkouts, that sexual harassment isn’t limited to movie sets highlighted in the MeToo movement.

“MeToo has now been taken up in farms, and other workplaces across the world, it’s major issue of a power imbalance between a boss and employee that power relations and discrimination on gender grounds come into it.

“Women workers and queer workers are especially vulnerable.

“I think people would be shocked to know how common sexual harassment is.

“The majority of young women have normalised it, the fact we get comments on the street or online, or been groped in bars, this is so trivialised because we deal with it every day, and we need to stand up and say this is not normal, and not acceptable.

“We need to build a movement for all, for bodily autonomy and to end sexual harassment.”

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