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How to combat sexual harassment on the internet in time of COVID-19

In the UN’s women’s guide to the environment for the UN, created in 2019, one of ‘s main topics is Behavioral Standards. These standards include guiding principles that encourage value-based behavior to reduce abuse and abuse of power, as well as creating a workplace with respect and responsibility. Our focus is on dealing with online sexual harassment during COVID-19, as defined in the United Nations System Model Policy: Sexual harassment is any unwanted behavior of a sexual nature that can reasonably be expected or perceived as insulting or humiliating. When such action prevents work from becoming a condition of employment or creating a frightening, hostile, or offensive work environment locations

Sexual harassment can occur in the workplace or at work.

While usually involves a pattern of behavior, sexual harassment can take the form of a single incident. International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Violence and Harassment (2019) uses the term “violence and harassment” in the workplace to refer to a range of unacceptable behaviors and practices or threats, whether isolated or recurrent, cause or may cause physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm and include gender-based violence and harassment.

Workplace harassment also can occur online

Cybersexual harassment can affect colleagues, especially women’s ability to participate online. People were able to deal with online sexual harassment during COVID-19.

Incomplete list of examples of sexual harassment on the Internet:

  • Threats of physical sexual violence, viewing or discussing

  • Pornographic material, sexual jokes, physical speeches or comments about sexual experiences, sending sexual conversations, making inappropriate sexual gestures, requesting reunions or sexual intercourse, classification of a person’s sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity

  • Funny comments.

UN goals

UN strengthens its efforts to combat online sexual harassment and improves standards of conduct. Achieving and maintaining gender equality in the United Nations depends on transforming the organizational culture so that promotes a safe and respectful environment in which all have equal access to opportunities. The entire UN community is responsible for creating and promoting a culture of respect. Intolerance and Responsibility for Discrimination harassment This includes sexual harassment and abuse of power.

Advices for the organizations

  • Demonstrate leadership and support messages to raise awareness of the zero tolerance approach and the importance of accountability through regular email updates and city hall meetings.

  • Provide clear and accessible resources to guide employees in preventing, recognizing and reporting violations that include online harassment. Resources include the organization’s human resources, the United Nations Helpline, and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) research department. Management may send messages via e-mail, intranet and town hall meetings.

  • Hold criminals accountable. A common mechanism for arresting offenders should be and should be applied in cases of online assault.

  • Similarly, a prey-oriented approach should be implemented.

  • Include a copy of Code of Conduct in your event invitations and note that all UN events are subject to the Code of Conduct.

  • Conduct confidential questionnaires with specific questions about the spread of cyberbullying in in order to collect data to track misconduct. For example, apply filters to limit the ability to host sexually inappropriate content within corporate IT systems.

Advices for the leaders

  • Share information about policies and resources and reiterate the message that sexual harassment is unacceptable online and offline. In addition to sharing organizational information, consider sharing articles or short posts (like this one) with team members.

  • Repeat to not tolerate any form of harassment including during meetings, events or other electronic communications. Report this regularly in email and meeting updates.

  • Practice inclusion during online meetings. Promote transparency and participation of all employees.

  • Ask your organization’s management and human resources about plans to address sexual harassment online and to promote awareness and data collection.

  • As an individual learn more about your organization’s policies and guidelines for preventing and responding to sexual harassment

  • Taking shared responsibility and being an effective observer. Determine how groups look in certain contexts and support practices, such as whether or not someone engages in unacceptable online behaviors. Some reactions include public or private encouragement of negative behavior; check for affected persons; call diversion; or ask someone else to intervene.

  • Use a victim-centered approach if the victim is approached, as with any sexual harassment. Listen and inform those affected about advice and assistance in a timely, sensitive and impartial manner, and clarify privacy and confidentiality issues.

  • Contact your Gender, Discipline and Behavior focal point to support their application.