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Protected from sexual harassment

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Ivana Zelić from … IZ KRUGAVOJVODINA and Ivana Per­ić from the SOS Women’s Cen­ter held a work­shop enti­tled Girls and Women Pro­tect­ed from Sex­u­al Harass­ment in the Branko­vo Kolo High School Stu­dents’ Dorm on 25 Octo­ber 2018. The work­shop was a part of the Pro­tect­ed cam­paign, imple­ment­ed as one of the pre­ven­ta­tive activ­i­ties of the Zero Tol­er­ance to Gen­der-Based Vio­lence Project.   

The aim of the work­shop was to teach young women and men to rec­og­nize var­i­ous forms of sex­u­al harass­ment, to intro­duce them to the extent iof its inci­dence both in Ser­bia and oth­er coun­tries, as well as to share infor­ma­tion on the ways they can pro­tect them­selves from it.

Sex­u­al harass­ment is one of the most com­mon forms of sex­u­al vio­lence and it is con­sid­ered the eas­i­est to tol­er­ate. It implies var­i­ous forms of unwel­come behav­ior on behalf of the per­pe­tra­tor that does not nec­es­sar­i­ly include phys­i­cal con­tact, but it nev­er­the­less caus­es feel­ings of dis­com­fort, embar­rass­ment and humil­i­a­tion with the tar­get­ed per­son. Any sex­u­al behav­ior mak­ing anoth­er per­son feel bad due to being exposed to or tar­get­ed by it is con­sid­ered sex­u­al harass­ment, be it just a casu­al com­ment with a sex­u­al con­no­ta­tion or an action includ­ing phys­i­cal con­tact.

Accord­ing to the data of the Autonomous Women’s Cen­ter research study enti­tled Youth Expe­ri­enc­ing Sex­u­al Harass­ment, near­ly 80 per­cent of youth have expe­ri­enced it. Its most com­mon form among Ser­bian youth is inap­pro­pri­ate name-call­ing. Eight out of ten girls have expe­ri­enced being addressed a doll, sug­ar or pussy­cat, while only one out of ten boys has expe­ri­enced being addressed with sim­i­lar inap­pro­pri­ate nick­names. Blow­ing kiss­es at her, cat­call­ing and whistling, as well as sala­cious lip-lick­ing hap­pened to every oth­er girl, as opposed to only one out of six young men. Six out of ten girls have been receiv­ing unwel­come las­civ­i­ous mes­sages and phone calls. Once again, the num­ber of young men with such expe­ri­ence (three out of ten) is by half less­er than that of girls.

Answer­ing the ques­tion on the behav­ior they con­sid­er to be sex­u­al harass­ment, 95 per­cent of the youth said it was unwant­ed touch­ing and being approached body-to-body by some­one. Unwant­ed sala­cious calls and mes­sages have been iden­ti­fied by 90 per­cent of the par­tic­i­pants, while 84 per­cent of them list­ed also blow­ing kiss­es at some­one, lip-lick­ing, whistling and cat­call­ing, name­ly address­ing some­one with inap­pro­pri­ate nick­names. It is impor­tant to know that girls and women react to such forms of sex­u­al vio­lence in dif­fer­ent ways.

Last year, Ser­bia incrim­i­nat­ed such and sim­i­lar behav­ior as sex­u­al harass­ment felony, sanc­tioned by either a fine or six-month impris­on­ment.

Dur­ing the work­shop, the youth agreed that there are cer­tain places that, in their opin­ion, are unsafe, such as pub­lic trans­porta­tion, parks and the Inter­net. They also real­ized that girls feel more threat­ened pre­cise­ly for fear of sex­u­al harass­ment.

The work­shop also includ­ed short video clips on sex­u­al harass­ment, fol­lowed by dis­cus­sions on cam­paigns ini­ti­at­ed in Ser­bia and world­wide, such as #Mee-Too.

The par­tic­i­pants agreed that it is impor­tant to know the dif­fer­ence between flirt­ing, court­ing and sex­u­al harass­ment. The basic dif­fer­ence, accord­ing to them, is that sex­u­al harass­ment has one key char­ac­ter­is­tic:

Nobody asks you any­thing and it goes on even when you tell this per­son to stop. This is why we have to talk more about it.’

Writ­ten by Ivana Zelić

Trans­lat­ed from Ser­bian by Anki­ca Dra­gin