It began with Harvey Weinstein, one of many largest names in cinema, then went international with the #metoo Twitter hashtag earlier than engulfing the UK’s members of Parliament.
The intercourse scandal spanning Hollywood, Parliament and past has uncovered a attainable hole in UK laws – sexual harassment just isn’t truly a legal offence in its personal proper.
The Equality Act presently covers sexual harassment within the office – however outdoors work, prosecutors should use totally different items of laws, relying on the character of the offence.
Critics say this leaves us with out a correct definition of the sorts of behaviour that quantity to sexual harassment – or clear boundaries.
It additionally makes it close to inconceivable to get an correct image of the dimensions of the issue.
So, is it time to make sexual harassment a particular legal offence?
“In fact sexual harassment needs to be criminalised,” says Samantha Rennie, director of Rosa, a charity which helps initiatives for girls and kids.
Two-thirds of UK ladies have reportedly been sexually harassed so it is necessary that we have now the regulation behind ladies, she says.
However Conservative MP Maria Miller, who chairs the Commons Girls and Equalities Committee, has her doubts.
“It is a actually tough space. It is not a simple space of regulation,” she says.
Society and Parliament must resolve the place the bar falls – what behaviours have been acceptable and never acceptable, she explains.
Most parliamentarians and police would contemplate sexual harassment outdoors work “too large and too tough a difficulty” to deal with with the identical zero-tolerance strategy that we do, for instance, race hate crimes, she says.
“That in itself could be very telling – we have now bought an enormous cultural downside right here, and it must be tackled.”
Sophie Walker, chief of the Girls’s Equality Social gathering, just isn’t satisfied a “fast change within the regulation” would resolve low conviction charges round sexual harassment.
“Persons are rightly on the lookout for a silver bullet,” she says – however she believes elementary change within the steadiness of energy in every thing from work and caring, to illustration and rights is what is required.
Is sexual harassment of a lady a hate crime?
No – not in most locations.
In England, Wales and Northern Eire, hate crimes fall into 5 classes – incapacity, race, faith, transgender identification and sexual orientation.
Nonetheless police forces can create their very own classes, relying on native considerations and issues.
Nottinghamshire has done just that – recording harassment as a misogynistic incident – and different areas are beginning to observe go well with.
Ms Miller says if this was taken up by different forces, it could be a simple approach to file incidents and get an thought of the dimensions of sexual harassment.
Samantha Rennie says hate crimes are prosecuted when race, sexuality and different prejudices are obvious, so gender needs to be no totally different.
When has a regulation change like this labored?
Revenge pornography is one instance.
Till 2015, there was no particular regulation in opposition to the offence, which frequently includes an ex-partner importing sexual pictures of somebody to humiliate and embarrass them.
As an alternative, convictions have been sought beneath present copyright or harassment legal guidelines.
Inside a 12 months of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 coming into power, 206 folks in England and Wales had been prosecuted for disclosing personal sexual pictures.
Lead campaigner Maria Miller cited figures suggesting that earlier than the regulation was modified solely two prosecutions had been made.
In Scotland, instances are introduced beneath the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act 2016.
If not a brand new regulation, how does present laws get up?
The Equality Act 2010 – which affords safety at work – units out a transparent framework and covers what’s most individuals’s expertise of sexual harassment, says Ms Miller.
It consists of sexual jokes on electronic mail, hugging and staring in a sexually suggestive manner.
Nonetheless, she says the laws leaves the sufferer to do “all of the operating”.
They’ve to focus on the Equality Act to their supervisor and, if that does not assist, take their case to a tribunal.
A declare should be introduced inside three months of the alleged act of harassment and a declare will be made concurrently in opposition to the employer and the perpetrator.
Ms Miller believes the federal government ought to have a look at giving the Equality Act, which covers England, Wales and Scotland, extra “enamel” by making components statutory as with, for instance, maternity rights.
Sexual harassment within the office can injury self-confidence and profession prospects, she says: “It feels an necessary space to get proper.”
Sian Hawkins, from Girls’s Support – a charity which helps abused ladies – says present laws must be repeatedly reviewed to ensure allegations are handled correctly, victims get the proper response and perpetrators are held accountable.
“The legal justice system must ship a transparent message to everybody that sexual harassment is unacceptable and that this crime is taken significantly,” she provides.
How many individuals have been prosecuted for sexual harassment?
We do not know.
Perpetrators can presently be tried beneath a lot of totally different items of laws.
For instance, a person sending a lady undesirable messages may very well be charged beneath the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and fondling on public transport would come beneath the Sexual Offences Act.
As a result of it isn’t essentially recorded as a sexually-motivated offence, the Crown Prosecution Service is unable to get a real determine.
Within the office, more than half of women said they had been sexually harassed, a TUC survey from last year found. Nonetheless solely a fifth of them instructed their employer.
The explanations they gave for conserving quiet have been fears for his or her careers prospects and dealing relationships, concern they’d not be believed and embarrassment.