Sexual harassment afflicts 50% of the women in the culture and media sectors
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Sexual harassment afflicts 50% of the women in the culture and media sectors

Half of the women in the culture and media sector have experienced sexual misconduct in the past year. Most of this usually consists of inappropriate sex or sexist comments, but in the cultural sector a quarter of the women report unwanted physical advances. Flemish Minister of Culture and Media Sven Gatz (Open VLD) promises an action plan.

The CuDOS research group (Department of Sociology – UGent) conducted a survey of 2,161 people, which detailed sexual harassment in these sectors. “These results are bad,” says Gatz. “This only increases the need to take action.”

Sometimes, however, the harassment becomes physical. For example, one in four women in the cultural sector indicates that they have also experienced unwanted physical or sexual advances during the past year. Four percent say they was forced or blackmailed into having non-consensual sex.

In the media sector, the figures are slightly lower: 1 in 5 women report experiencing unwanted physical or sexual advances and 3% were forced to have sexual relations.

The study also shows that victims of sexual harassment don’t often report incidents to the authorities. Only 17 percent of people, who were forced into having sexual contact, said that they notified a person of confidence or the police.

Gatz expressed surprise with the survey’s results. He said, “The figures are poor and are higher than expected. This only increases the need to take action.”

The minister has devised an action plan, whose main purpose is to ensure that the channels for reporting complaints are known, used and that the victims receive help. One aspect of his plan is to strengthen 1712, the general hotline number to report physical violence.

Offenders must also be held accountable for their behaviour so that they can can be dealt with quickly. That is why Minister Gatz is creating an ombudsman function for the culture and audiovisual sector. This person will act as a contact point and mediator.

The action plan also fully focuses on the training of confidential counsellors. Consultations are underway with schools to introduce the theme of sexual harassment into the programmes that prepare students for a job in the arts and audiovisual sector.

From 2019 onwards, there will be a broad focus on sensitivity training. Minister Gatz is allocating 102,500 euro for the rollout of the action plan.

Arthur Rubinstein
The Brussels Times