Cypriot women are being mobbed out of their jobs after giving birth, during pregnancy, or after turning down sexual advances, as legislation does not protect them, said Law Commissioner Louiza Christodoulidou Zannetou.
At a conference on “Mobbing and sexual harassment at the workplace”, Zannetou said that complaints received by her office had been steadily rising.
The commissioner also acts as the head of the national Gender Equality in Employment and Vocational Training Committee.
She said the percentage of employees who dare to report incidents of gender discrimination or harassment in their workplace is very small, with 90% of the victims being women.
The situation is made more difficult because there is no legislation on mobbing in Cyprus to protect them from it.
Zannetou argued the legislative gap could be regulated based on existing laws.
“Since we have the Equal Treatment of Men and Women in Employment and Vocational Training Act of 2002 and the complaint management mechanism, there is no reason why mobbing should not be regulated by law”.
The EU member states began to adopt provisions for workplace bullying in 1990; however, in Cyprus, the issue has not been picked up.
About sexual harassment at work, which is a criminal offence, she said that 9 out of 10 victims are women, but very few come forward to file a complaint.
The conference on mobbing and sexual harassment was organised by the Cyprus Independent Union of Civil Servants ASDYK under the auspices of the Gender Equality Commissioner.
Gender expert Dr Anna Pilavaki said that one in three women across the EU had reported some form of sexual harassment.
European statistics show that only 8%-10% of victims file a complaint.
The Commissioner for Gender Equality, Josie Christodoulou, said: “Research and studies show that victims always say no, either verbally or indirectly, but usually the harasser deliberately ignores the refusal”.
“On the contrary, harassers accuse the victim of playing hard to get”.
She said it’s the employer’s responsibility for a safe reporting environment without fear of retaliation and the government’s intentions to address gender-based discrimination.
ASDYK’s chair George Horattas noted that many workers who experience insulting and demeaning behaviour or are victims of harassment do not complain for fear of retaliation and to avoid social stigma.
“This victimisation even affects the health of the person, who sometimes chooses resignation to escape from the situation.”
Dr Panayiotis Stavrinides, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Cyprus, said that workplace bullying is never an isolated incident, but it is intentional, and in most cases, it escalates.
Victims suffer from chronic anxiety and depression.
He said they do not report the incidents out of “fear, shame and guilt”.