Media and Communication Strategies for Ending Sexual Harassment
last updated 10 February 2009

The media and communication campaigns are powerful tools in combating all forms of violence against women, including sexual harassment. They can change attitudes toward sexually harassing behavior and employer practices vis a vis sexual harassment. The media can also be used to encourage women in the workforce to report the behavior and prosecutors to enforce laws directed at the behavior, whatever their form. The use of media and communication strategies by advocates to combat violence against women is discussed further in the Advocacy Strategies section of the website.

On the whole, there has been little media coverage of gender issues in the CEE/FSU region. As a result, the importance of issues such as sexual harassment and the reversal of the burden of proof in sex discrimination cases has been "minimized and dismissed due to ignorance." From Open Society Institute, Monitoring the EU Accession Process: Equal Opportunities for Women and Men 19 (2002).

One campaign to combat sexual harassment in the CEE/FSU region has been highlighted by the United Nations Development Program. In 1997, Women's Forum conducted the campaign in Slovenia and Croatia to explain the concept of sexual harassment, to change attitudes in the workplace and to educate women about their legal right to a workplace free from sexual harassment. The campaign involved Women's Forum advocates and trade union activists distributing thousands of leaflets and posters providing guidelines for employees facing sexual harassment in the workplace and instructing women "How to say no to your boss." The posters and leaflets appeared in banks, post offices, railway stations, health care centers, parliament, and government agencies. In addition, a manual on developing employer policies for the prevention and eradication of sexual harassment and video tapes introducing the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace were also distributed at "the training of trainers" workshops. The campaign resulted in 95 articles, 7 television broadcasts and extensive radio coverage in Slovenia and 50 articles and 4 television programs in Croatia. Women's Forum attributes the following positive developments to the media campaign: 

  • government agencies and trade unions established phone lines dedicated to providing counseling regarding sexual harassment,
  • a strike forced a major Slovenian company to address sexual harassment charges by its female employees;
  • a new labor law prohibiting sexual harassment was drafted in Slovenia;
  • the first criminal charges of sexual harassment were filed in Croatia; 
  • Croatian trade unions adopted sexual harassment policies, and 
  • the campaign promoted increased awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Adapted from Picturing a Life Free of Violence: Media and Communications Strategies to End Violence Against Women, Chapter 2: Sexual Assault And Coercion, Saying No to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (PDF, 10 pages), UNIFEM and the Media Materials Clearinghouse of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, 2001. [PDF, 10 pages].

For the 2008 United Nations expert group report with recommendations on sensitization of the media, see "Good practices in legislation on violence against women."  For the Russian version of the report recommendations, click here.