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 potential hole in UK laws – sexual harassment shouldn’t be really a legal offence in its personal proper.
The Equality Act at the moment covers sexual harassment within the office – however exterior work, prosecutors should use totally different items of laws, relying on the character of the offence.
Critics say this leaves us with no correct definition of the varieties of behaviour that quantity to sexual harassment – or clear boundaries.
It additionally makes it close to inconceivable to get an correct image of the size of the issue.
So, is it time to make sexual harassment a selected legal offence?
“After all sexual harassment must be criminalised,” says Samantha Rennie, director of Rosa, a charity which helps initiatives for girls and youngsters.
Two-thirds of UK girls have reportedly been sexually harassed so it is vital that we’ve the regulation behind girls, she says.
However Conservative MP Maria Miller, who chairs the Commons Ladies and Equalities Committee, has her doubts.
“It is a actually tough space. It is not a straightforward space of regulation,” she says.
Society and Parliament must determine the place the bar falls – what behaviours have been acceptable and never acceptable, she explains.
Most parliamentarians and police would contemplate sexual harassment exterior work “too huge and too tough a difficulty” to deal with with the identical zero-tolerance method that we do, for instance, race hate crimes, she says.
“That in itself may be very telling – we’ve received an enormous cultural downside right here, and it must be tackled.”
Sophie Walker, chief of the Ladies’s Equality Get together, shouldn’t be satisfied a “fast change within the regulation” would resolve low conviction charges round sexual harassment.
“Individuals are rightly in search of a silver bullet,” she says – however she believes elementary change within the stability of energy in every little 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 issues 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 might be an easy option to file incidents and get an concept of the size of sexual harassment.
Samantha Rennie says hate crimes are prosecuted when race, sexuality and different prejudices are obvious, so gender must be no totally different.
When has a regulation change like this labored?
Revenge pornography is one instance.
Till 2015, there was no particular regulation towards the offence, which frequently entails an ex-partner importing sexual pictures of somebody to humiliate and embarrass them.
As an alternative, convictions have been sought below present copyright or harassment legal guidelines.
Inside a yr of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 coming into pressure, 206 individuals 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 below 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 gives 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 e 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 spotlight 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 could be made concurrently towards the employer and the perpetrator.
Ms Miller believes the federal government ought to take a look at giving the Equality Act, which covers England, Wales and Scotland, extra “tooth” by making parts statutory as with, for instance, maternity rights.
Sexual harassment within the office can injury self-confidence and profession prospects, she says: “It feels an vital space to get proper.”
Sian Hawkins, from Ladies’s Assist – a charity which helps abused girls – says present laws must be recurrently reviewed to verify allegations are handled correctly, victims get the appropriate 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 at the moment be tried below plenty of totally different items of laws.
For instance, a person sending a lady undesirable messages could possibly be charged below the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and fondling on public transport would come below 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 advised their employer.
The explanations they gave for protecting quiet have been fears for his or her careers prospects and dealing relationships, concern they’d not be believed and embarrassment.