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90% of sexual harassment complaints in public sector

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Sexual harassment and gender discrimination are on the rise, with authorities saying 90% of cases involve public sector complaints. The privately employed seem to keep silent for fear of losing their job.

Maria Stylianou Lottides, Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights (Ombudsman), said that one in two people knows someone who has been a victim of such an incident.

Speaking at a press conference on awareness about sexual harassment, Lottides said the biggest percentage of complaints investigated so far are in the public sector (90%), and only 10% involved private companies.

She attributed the gap between the two sectors to the fear of people working in private organizations losing their jobs or facing unfavourable conditions.

Cases of gender discrimination make up 62% of cases reported, and 38% had to do with sexual harassment.

Lottides said potential victims needed to be informed of their rights and existing out-of-court protection mechanisms to give them the necessary courage to break the silence.

Based on statistical surveys carried out at national and international level, most of the victims are women, she said.

Referring to the findings through the investigation of complaints in the last four years by her Office, Lottides said that 80% of complaints involved women and 20% men.

She said a significant 39.48% of complaints, satisfaction was achieved for the complainant “following our intervention, with specific suggestions and recommendations in each case”.

These suggestions aimed to resolve the issue and take preventive and deterrent measures to protect the complainant from any adverse actions at work.

“Unfortunately, although the Code of Practice for the prevention and treatment of harassment at work in the Public Service was created and submitted by our Office, from July 2018, we see almost four years later, a percentage of 40% of Public Service has not adopted the said Code”.

The Ombudsman’s office has also made suggestions for the bill’s immediate promotion to criminalize harassment and stalking to protect victims and punish the perpetrators.

Lottides called for more active participation of unions and employers in educating staff on gender discrimination and sexual harassment issues.

The number of complaints on sexual harassment in Cyprus has skyrocketed since athletes and actors came forward naming their abusers, following Olympic shooter Andri Eleftheriou reporting a sports official for sexual abuse.

Police are now looking into an avalanche of historical sexual harassment cases involving a track and field coach, doctor, politician, and former bishop that has surfaced, slowly finding their way to court.