A high school student gets a failing grade on her essay because she refused her teacher’s sexual advances. A factory worker repeatedly turns down her foreman’s requests for a date, and suddenly sees her work hours reduced. A single mother gets evicted because she won’t have sex with her landlord.
These stories don’t take place 50 years ago – they, along with many others like them, happened recently. Even though the law is clear, some people still don’t “get” that there is no place for sexual harassment in our workplaces, schools and housing. Sexual and gender-based harassment often occurs because of a power imbalance between the harasser and the person being harassed. It can happen to anyone, of any social, economic or ethnic background.
While a lot of harassment is subtle, there are still many blatant cases, involving women and, less frequently, men. And there are even new, 21st century ways to harass – the Internet and social media are becoming the weapons of choice.
That’s why the OHRC launched its newly revised Policy on preventing sexual and gender-based harassment. The policy covers sexual and gender-based harassment in employment, housing and education. It shows how the Code protects against harassment, and offers practical steps to prevent it.
The policy also raises gender-based harassment – harassing comments or conduct made to a person because of their gender. Gender-based harassment is often used to reinforce traditional male/female roles. In many cases it may look the same as homophobic harassment.
The effects of sexual and gender-based harassment may be serious, and can be particularly damaging for young people.
The OHRC will promote the new policy across Ontario, to send a strong message that sexual and gender-based harassment is wrong – and is against the law.