Sociologist defends more comprehensive law against sexual harassment at work

Sociologist Juliana Oliveira of the Fundacentro, which is a research organization linked to the Ministry of Labor, defended the improvement of legislation against sexual harassment at work, a crime that could lead to two years of detention and compensation for moral damages.

According to Juliana Oliveira, many victims, often women, fail to report harassment because of fear, shame, disbelief in the punishment of the perpetrators or lack of information about whom they can appeal for compensation and punishment of the person who committed the crime.

According to article 216A of the Criminal Code, sexual harassment in the workplace is “to embarrass someone with the purpose of obtaining sexual favors or advantage, taking advantage of the agent of their status as superior or ascendancy inherent in the exercise of employment, position or function. These attitudes can be clear or subtle.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines sexual harassment as “acts of insinuations, forced physical contact, impertinent invitations, upon threat of dismissal or in exchange for an advantage, promotion or hire.”

For Juliana Oliveira, Brazil still needs to make much progress in the legislation, because it only foresees the harassment between hierarchical levels. “Sexual harassment at work is always an act of power. The perpetrator is a hierarchical superior of the harassed person,” she says.

Harassment can be verbal, implied, gestural or physical. “You have to understand that this attitude is also a blackmail. ‘If you do not do what I want, I can harm you or persecute you’,” Juliana explains.

Although the act was criminalized in 2001, there are no data on how many women are victims of sexual harassment, but the experts believe that the number of cases is far higher than those that become public. “Harassment is one of the most humiliating forms of embarrassment of workers in modern times. It happens silently, without witnesses, systematically, morally and psychologically damaging its victims”, she says.

According to Juliana Oliveira, many people confuse sexual harassment with moral. Sexual connotation differs from one another, because the two are repetitive actions that cause embarrassment and psychological harm to the victim.

For experts on sexual harassment, despite all the difficulties, the denouncement, together with prevention and education campaigns within companies, is still the best way to combat this crime.

You can watch the interview with Juliana Oliveira