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#Metoo Conquers EU: European Union Discusses Institutional Steps To Enforce Anti-Sexual Harassment Culture

A European Union discussion on Wednesday raised awareness of the extent to which MEPs and staffers in EU institutions sexually harassed, stalked and mistreated women in various departments. Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal initiated the movement, over 1.7 million women and men all over the world published their own stories of harassment under the #metoo hashtag.

Several members spoke about their experiences to combat the ongoing abuse.

EU Parliament discusses sexual harassment.  Photo Courtesy: Getty Images.

EU Parliament discusses sexual harassment.

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images.

“Me too, I have been sexually harassed, just like millions of other people in the European Union,” revealed Terry Reintke, a German MEP.

By enabling a platform for women to openly discuss their experiences, the EU institutionalized steps to fight this issue. After recognizing that this is not an individual problem of some women but instead “a systemic problem of sexual harassment within the Brussels bubble”, as a former EU intern from England put it, an election for necessary measurements was scheduled for Thursday. There, MEPs voted for the establishment of a task force of independent experts, as well as mandatory training for all staff on respect and dignity at work.

However, the problem of sexual harassment in the EU isn’t new. Years back, European Parliament President Tajani installed an internal committee to fight this issue after widespread reports of sexual harassment in EU institutions became public. Yet, since 2014, only ten cases have been reported. In the Commission, only 13 members requested assistance, while disciplinary sanctions were taken in only 30 percent of these cases.

#Metoo gives mistreated women a public voice.  Photo Courtesy: AP

#Metoo gives mistreated women a public voice.

Photo Courtesy: AP

What’s new are the over 30 anonymous allegations of cases of harassment, assault, and rape on the Brussels website, Politico Europe, over the last week forcing immediate action.

While the actual effects of the EU measurements aren’t foreseeable yet, the open discussions show that the impact of the #metoo movement already went beyond expectations. As Swedish MEP Malin Bjoerk declared during the conference: “#MeToo is about recognising that there is a structural problem. It’s about the macho culture in our societies.”