Harassment

(Illustration: iStockphoto)

There are several forms of harassment, and among these are harassment based on gender and ethnicity. On these pages we focus primarily on sexual harassment.

The Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (the KIF Committee) is working to promote gender balance and diversity in academia. Working to combat sexual harassment is one of the measures to improve gender equality in the research sector.

The first national report on bullying and harassment in Norway’s university and university college sector was presented in August 2019. One of the findings in the report is that there is an urgent need for research on sexual harassment.  

299  of the 17 984 respondents in the survey stated that they have been subjected to sexual harassment in their current position in the past 12 months. Mostly women (79 per cent) and about one fifth (21 per cent) men. There is also an overrepresentation of younger employees that stated that they have been subjected to sexual harassment. 30,5 per cent of the respondents are under 40 years old, and represent 51,2 per cent of all sexual harassment in the survey. Doctoral research fellows is the group with the highest rate of respondents stating they have been  sexual harassed.

From January 2020, the Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal has the authority to process cases of whistleblowing of sexual harassment. In  2019, the Norwegian Parliament decided to provide a low-threshold option for processing sexual harassment cases. Victims of sexual harassment can choose to  report to the Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Tribunal instead of taking their case to court.

What is harassment?

“Harassment” generally refers to repetitive, prolonged or serious acts or statements that have the effect of being offensive, frightening, hostile or degrading.

Individual incidents of unwanted behaviour may be regarded as unlawful harassment as well. It is important to note that the behaviour must be unwanted and troublesome. This is subjective, and may be difficult to assess objectively. The subjective experience of the aggrieved party is given great weight. 

See an overview of the laws on harassment: Legislation.

Types of harassment

  • Sexual harassment.
  • Harassment on the basis of gender, disability, ethnicity, age, political views, member of a trade union, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion and beliefs.

Harassment can manifest in various ways

  • Physical: touching, assault, attempted rape.
  • Verbal: bothersome comments about a person’s body, clothes and private life, jokes with a sexual undercurrent.
  • Non-verbal: whistling and physical gestures with a sexual undercurrent, bothersome glances, exposure, showing of pictures or objects with a sexual undercurrent.

Harassment – a difficult concept

It may be difficult to distinguish between harassment on the basis of gender and sexual harassment. However, when harassment has a large sexual component, it constitutes sexual harassment. Harassment is a way to exercise power, and must be understood in light of power and inequality structures such as gender, age, class and ethnicity.

When is it sexual harassment?

A challenge for researchers who study sexual harassment is that the acts which can legally be defined as such are not always called sexual harassment by the victim. Therefore, some researchers ask about the person’s behaviour or experience, rather than about “sexual harassment”, when they research the subject.

Who reports sexual harassment?

Based on research in the field, more women than men report sexual harassment. Younger women are the most at risk.

Criticism

A common criticism is that much of the research literature does not distinguish between bullying and sexual harassment.

Little research has been conducted on sexual harassment in academia.

Surveys and research

There is limited research conducted on sexual harassment in academia. 

26 universities and university colleges initiated a joint survey of bullying and harassment in the research sector. The report was presented in August 2019. 

Read the report: National Report: Bullying and Harassment in the UH sector. 

In 2018 the Board of Universities Norway (UHR) established UHRMOT, a working group on bullying and harassment in the UH sector. The report is available in Norwegian

The KIF Committee's work with harassment

The task of the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (the KIF Committee) is to promote gender balance and ethnic diversity in the higher education sector and research institute sector.

Working environments with uneven gender balance are more susceptible to direct and indirect discrimination. Working to combat sexual harassment in academia is also a way of promoting gender equality for students and researchers.

On these pages we have compiled information about sexual harassment, and in the list below you can read our news articles on the topic.