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Sexual Harassment a Rampant Issue Across Borders

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The #MeToo movement and women coming forward about sexual harassment in the workplace has been an almost daily headline in the United States, but the issue certainly isn’t exclusive to America.

23% of men surveyed across eight countries reported that they think it’s sometimes or always acceptable for an employer to ask or expect an employee to have intimate interactions such as sex with them, a family member or a friend. These are the findings of a survey conducted by CARE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending poverty and achieving social justice.

As part of the #MeToo movement, CARE launched its #ThisIsNotWorking campaign and commissioned the online survey to provide insights into inappropriate workplace behavior.

Egypt was revealed to have the highest number of men — 62% — who said it’s sometimes or always OK for employers to ask or expect intimate interactions from employees. The survey includes responses from 9,408 adults from Ecuador, Egypt, India, South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

“Being expected to have sex with your employer — that's not a job description, it's sexual abuse," said Michelle Nunn, CARE's president and CEO. “And it speaks to the global epidemic of harassment and abuse in our workplaces.”

CARE commissioned the survey to better understand the often-unspoken rules and perceptions that underlie that epidemic worldwide. It found wide gaps between what men and women find acceptable at work in most countries surveyed. In the United States, for example, 44% of men ages 18 to 34 said it's sometimes or always acceptable to tell a sexual joke to a colleague at work, while only 22% of women in that age group agreed. And in India, more than half of men (52%) said it's sometimes (34%) or always acceptable (18%) to rank colleagues based on appearance, while only 35% of women said that's sometimes or always OK.

The survey also revealed hope for progress in the fight against sexual harassment. Some 65% of women across the eight countries surveyed said they believe the #MeToo movement will have a positive impact on workplace behavior in their countries. And 56% of women across the eight countries said recent sexual harassment scandals in Hollywood and other high-profile industries will lead to improved workplace behavior in most industries, not just entertainment.

“The immediate impact of the #MeToo movement inspires us," Nunn said. “But the long-term test is not whether it brings down dozens of powerful men in the United States, but whether it lifts up millions of women around the world. And this survey tells us that women aren't just hoping #MeToo will spark real change — they're expecting it.”

Other findings from the survey include:

  • In the United Kingdom, 35% of 25- to 34-year-olds think it's sometimes/always acceptable to pinch a colleague's bottom in jest.
  • In India, 33% of all adults say it's either sometimes or always acceptable to cat-call/wolf-whistle at a colleague.
  • Across all countries, including the United States, there is a sizeable gap between what men and women find acceptable in the workplace. For example, 36% of U.S. men believe it's sometimes acceptable (34%) or even always acceptable (2%) to tell a risqué or sexual joke to a colleague, while the figure is 20% for U.S. women.

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