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Two in five Singapore workers have been sexually harassed at the workplace in last five years: Aware-Ipsos survey

SINGAPORE — Two in five workers in Singapore were sexually harassed at the workplace in the past five years, but seven in 10 of them chose not to report their experiences, a survey has found.

Two in five Singapore workers have been sexually harassed at the workplace in last five years: Aware-Ipsos survey

A recent study found that 13 per cent of Singapore workers surveyed said that they have been touched physically in a way that was unwelcome, alarming or distressing.

  • Seven in 10 workers who were sexually harassed chose to not report their experiences, a survey found
  • Among those who reported the incident, the culprit for one in five victims faced no consequences
  • Findings show that workplace sexual harassment is a “pervasive and urgent problem”, Aware says
  • It recommended a national legislation to combat the issue

 

SINGAPORE — Two in five workers in Singapore were sexually harassed at the workplace in the past five years, but seven in 10 of them chose not to report their experiences, a survey has found.

Among those who reported their cases, one in five of the victims had to reconcile with the fact that the culprit faced no consequences despite there being evidence of the harassment. Only two in five victims who reported their cases had the culprit reassigned or dismissed.

These findings came out of a survey by market research company Ipsos and the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware). Both said that the survey is the first ever nationally representative survey on workplace sexual harassment in Singapore. 

Among the respondents, 48 per cent were male. 

WHY IT MATTERS

The survey, which was conducted in November last year, involved 1,000 Singapore citizens and permanent residents who had been engaged in paid work in the recent five years.

In a press release presenting the findings on Thursday (Jan 14), Aware and Ipsos said that most of the victims did not report their experiences because they either believed that their encounter was not severe enough, did not think that there was enough evidence to put forward their case, or simply wished to forget about the incident.

Aware and Ipsos also pointed out a major gap in the understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment.

They noted that only one in five respondents stated that they had been sexually harassed in the workplace, yet two in five said that they had experienced at least one harassment situation as described in the survey.

HARASSMENT SITUATIONS

The harassment situations that were put to respondents included:

  • Been touched physically in a way that was unwelcome, alarming or distressing — 13 per cent said that they had experienced it

  • Received unwanted attempts to establish a romantic or sexual relationship or both despite their efforts to discourage it — 11 per cent said that they had experienced it

  • Been asked, indirectly or directly, to flirt, dress provocatively or use sexual gestures to impress a client or a senior staff member that made them feel alarmed, distressed or harassed — 9 per cent said that they had experienced it

  • Had their career prospects threatened if or when they did not respond favourably to unwelcome sexual favours or advances — 7 per cent said that they had experienced it

  • Been subjected to promises or hints at enhanced career prospects in return for a sexual favour that caused them alarm, distress, or harassment — 6 per cent said that they had experienced it

Other situations included receiving pictures, jokes, phone text messages or gestures of a sexual or sexist nature; alarming or offensive remarks or questions about their experiences, bodies or sexual activities; and crude and distressing remarks, jokes or gestures of a sexual or sexist nature.

'LEGISLATION NEEDED'

Ms Shailey Hingorani, Aware’s head of research and advocacy, said that the survey findings underscore the importance of identifying sexual harassment with clear illustrations, seeing that generalised definitions may be inadvertently perpetuating misconceptions.

She also said that the findings affirmed that workplace sexual harassment is a “pervasive and urgent problem”, and that the authorities cannot rely on official cases as their only measure of prevalence due to the frequent under-reporting.

Given the findings, Aware is now recommending that the Government introduce national legislation against workplace harassment, as well as regular anti-harassment training across industries and the universal adoption of grievance-handling policies.

Aware said that there are a few inadequacies in the current policy approach to tackling workplcae sexual harassment. For one, the Protection from Harassment Act does not inform employers of the protective and preventive measures with which they must comply, and it does not educate employees about their employment rights.

The gender-equality organisation also said that the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Workplace Harassment does not explicitly place a legal obligation on employers to prevent workplace harassment.

“We recognise that Singapore is, in some regards, ahead of many countries in addressing the scourge of sexual violence. However, when it comes to workplace sexual harassment in particular, we appear to lag behind countries that have specific legislations on the matter,” Ms Hingorani said.

“Giving employers an explicit statutory obligation to prevent and address sexual harassment, and educating workers on the remedies available to them against their employers, would provide a firm foundation from which to eradicate this very insidious and damaging behaviour.”

Ms Melanie Ng, director of public affairs at Ipsos in Singapore, said that the research identifies a worrying prevalence of sexual harassment and that it is the case for both men and women.

“While more education around the subject needs to happen, employers need to ensure that the reporting channels in their workplaces are accessible, safe and effective for employees to get the help that they need,” she said.

Related topics

sexual harassment workplace Aware Ipsos survey

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