Sexual Harassment as Discrimination
Last updated May 2010
 
Anti-discrimination legislation allows for protection against multiple types of discrimination and thus can provide important protections to women who may face harassment on multiple grounds at once, such as race and sex, or sexual orientation and sex. Virtually all sexual harassment legislation around the world prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

In order to effectively address all sexual harassment, laws should also broadly protect victims from harassment that may be perpetrated based on an array of sexually-based characteristics of the victim, such as sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Legislation should cover these categories whether the characteristic is actual or perceived. Also, legislation should explicitly prohibit harassment on the basis of actual or perceived association with others in one of the covered categories. These principles may also be particularly important in educational settings. See: Harassment in Education, StopVAW; National Center for Lesbian Rights, Federal Cases Recognizing that Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Non-conformity and/or Transgender Status is a Form on Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, 2006; National Center for Lesbian Rights, Guidance for Drafting State Safe Schools Legislation, 2002.
  • CASE STUDY – Ireland
    • Like many countries, Ireland addresses sexual harassment in several different laws. It addresses some forms of sexual harassment in broad anti-discrimination legislation which also covers discrimination on the basis of race, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, etc. The Equal Status Act, quoted below, does not address sexual harassment in the workplace – that issue is covered in Ireland’s Employment Equality Act of 1998 – but prohibits harassing conduct in several other contexts, including the provision of goods and services, accommodation, and education. It also provides that proprietors and “responsible persons” can be held liable for acts of harassment occurring in their zone of responsibility, unless they take reasonable measures to prevent such acts.
      • Sexual harassment takes place where a person—
      • (a) subjects another person (“the victim”) to an act of physical intimacy,
      • (b) requests sexual favours from the victim, or
      • (c) subjects the victim to any act or conduct with sexual connotations, including spoken words, gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or other material, where—
      • (i) the act, request or conduct is unwelcome to the victim and could reasonably be regarded as offensive, humiliating or intimidating to him or her, or
      • (ii) the victim is treated differently by reason of his or her rejection of or submission to, as the case may be, the act, request or conduct or it could reasonably be anticipated that the victim would be so treated.
      • (5) Harassment takes place where a person subjects another person (“the victim”) to any unwelcome act, request or conduct, including spoken words, gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or other material, which in respect of the victim is based on any discriminatory ground and which could reasonably be regarded as offensive, humiliating or intimidating to him or her. Equal Status Act of 2000, sec.11.
  • CASE STUDY – Mauritius
    • In 2008, Mauritius passed landmark anti-discrimination legislation that included provisions on sexual harassment in employment, provisions of goods and services, accommodation, etc. The law defined sexual harassment, made it a criminal offense, and laid out in article 26 which areas of public life are covered by the prohibition:
      • (1) No employer, or agent of an employer, shall sexually harass an employee or a person seeking employment from the employer.
      • (2) No job contractor or principal shall sexually harass a contract worker.
      • (3) No employee shall sexually harass a fellow employee or a person seeking employment from his employer.
      • (4) No agent of an employment agency shall sexually harass a person in the course of providing, or offering to provide, any of the agency’s services to that person.
      • (5) No person referred to in section 15, or his employee, shall sexually harass another person in relation to the conferment, renewal, extension, revocation or withdrawal of an authorisation or qualification referred to in that section.
      • (6)
        • (a) No member of the staff of an educational institution shall sexually harass a student at the institution or a person who is seeking admission as a student.
        • (b) No student at an educational institution shall sexually harass another student or a member of the staff.
      • (7) No person referred to in section 18 shall sexually harass another person in the course of providing or offering to provide goods, services or facilities to the other person.
      • (8) No person referred to in section 19 shall sexually harass another person in the course of providing, or offering to provide, accommodation to the other person.
      • (9) No person shall sexually harass another person in the course of dealing with the other person in connection with –
        • (a) disposing, or offering to dispose of, any immovable property to the other person; or
        • (b) acquiring, or offering to acquire, any immovable property from the other person.
      • (10) No officer or member of a company, partnership, "société", registered association or club shall sexually harass a member or other member, as the case may be, or a person seeking to become a member.