Hungary faced with first public sexual harassment at the workplace complaint

23-07-2004

For the first time in Hungary, an employee has made a public complaint about sexual harassment in the workplace. Ironically the complaint comes from a secretary working in the government office for equal opportunity. The case is being investigated and some experts believe this will be the first of many.

We asked psychiatrist Dr. Gyorgy Virag for his reaction to the fact that the first official complaint comes from the Equal Opportunities office...

"I'm happy about it, if it's possible to say, because I'm sure that it will put pressure on lawmakers. Sexual harassment is not in the newspapers, we rarely hear about cases of sexual harassment. Of course, this doesn't mean that it does not happen."

What do you think will happen, now that the secretary has turned to the courts?

"As far as I know, the proper legal rules are missing from the Hungarian legal practice. So, we do not have rules against sexual harassment, neither in criminal law nor in civil law. I am not sure what would happen if the courts held a trial on this case. But what has happened is important because it can be the beginning of a process when people understand that sexual harassment is an abuse of power and it's impossible to allow."

You are working for Ester, which is a foundation that helps battered women and children. You know very well that in Hungary there are ample cases of such abuse. I'm sure they do happen at work places...

"I'm sure as well that it happens but people don't talk about it. I think that the sensitivity relating to this kind of abuse of power will increase. I'm absolutely sure that there is a marked development of decreasing tolerance towards aggression. Sexual abuse of children and domestic violence - such issues happened a hundred years ago as well but people didn't talk about it or didn't perceive it as a problem. I guess the sexual harassment is a stage of this development. We've reached the point where the people became sensitive to this kind of abuse of power. They don't tolerate it anymore."

23-07-2004

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