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Yle survey finds sexual harassment is relatively common in parliament

An Yle survey of advisors and staff in Finnish parliament has found that more than one-in-ten have experienced sexual harassment.

Eduskunnan istuntosali
Working in parliament can be a precarious existence. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Workers in parliament experience more sexual harassment than average workers elsewhere in Finland, according to a survey by Yle. More than one-in-ten respondents said they had been harassed, a much greater proportion than the 6-7 percent  who reported harassment via the recent survey by the Finnish Institute for Occupational Health.

Yle sent a survey to 223 special advisors, assistants and employees working with politicians in parliament. Of those 95 answered, and 13 of those said they had been harassed and 85 said they hadn't. All but one of the victims of harassment that reported their experiences in the survey were female.

The majority of the victims who answered the survey said that their harasser had abused a position of power to carry out their harassment. The harassment reported included verbal harassment, unwanted touching and gestures.

Precarious position

Precarious working conditions and strong power relations in the workplace might make political advisors more vulnerable to harassment, according to Tanja Auvinen of the institute, citing a survey by a service sector union.

"According to the report, harassment disproportionately affected workers on temporary contracts, because their chances to report issues are weaker than those with permanent contracts."

Auvinen said that employees tend to try to avoid getting a reputation as 'difficult', as that could affect their chances of finding work in the future.

In recent weeks several groups of women have come forward with their own experiences of sexual harassment in different sectors and communities, including the entertainment industry and the Swedish-speaking community.

Last week an 'us too' (#memyös in Finnish) campaign on social media was launched, echoing the international #MeToo campaign.

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