Members of the European Parliament have joined the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and spoken out about their own experiences.
Bearing placards, women from across the parliament said attitudes and laws had to change across the continent to combat the “widespread problem”.
The debate comes amid claims that Brussels authorities are not doing enough to deal with allegations of harassment, assault and rape in their own institutions.
Terry Reintke, a Green Party MEP from Germany told her fellow MEPs: “Me too, I have been sexually harassed, just like millions of other women in the European Union, and I think it’s about time that we say that we should not be ashamed, but that the perpetrators should be ashamed.
“Sexual harassment is such a widespread problem all over the EU and we will need legislative steps in order to combat this problem.”
She called for an explicit EU directive with “specific measures” to fight sexual harassment.
The MEP told men not to be “complacent” about the issue and said genders had to fight harassment together.
Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld said: “In these last days after the MeToo campaign, I get the question often from men, ‘I’m not so sure anymore what I can do, when do I cross the border?’
“I always say, it’s easy, if you have a daughter just ask yourself, how would I want my daughter to be treated? Well that’s the way you’re going to treat other people.
“It’s not just about violence, it’s also about sexism. Sexist remarks, it’s not harmless! Sexist jokes are not funny, they’re just sexist.”
While media coverage of the #MeToo campaign has so far focused on showbiz, the increased attention it has brought to the issue of sexual harassment has led to women in other walks of life speaking out.
There have been widespread reports of sexual harassment in the EU institutions, including the European Parliament itself. The institution launched a campaign against the practice last year, issuing advice to people who are been affected.
But the parliamentary authorities have been criticised for not doing enough, after Brussels website Politico Europe collected anonymous allegations of over 30 cases of alleged harassment, assault and even rape after a call for evidence over the last week.
On Monday Parliament President Antonio Tajani said: “It is with shock and indignation that I have learned of recent allegations of sexual harassment at the European Parliament.
“However, shock alone cannot be the answer. Though steps have already been taken a year ago to raise awareness of the existence of the harassment complaints committee, it’s necessary to further increase awareness of the facilities already in place.”
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