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What is gender-based harassment?

Gender-based harassment occurs when the behaviour or activity is intended to degrade another person’s dignity due to gender. Gender-based harassment also occurs when a person feels humiliated due to his or her gender, including family responsibilities (parenting, caring for a sick family member, etc.), and experiences a distracting, threatening, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive atmosphere as a result.

For example, gender-based harassment may occur when an employer or colleague, client or partner makes comments about women or men or a particular female or male employee based on stereotypical prejudices. Such examples involve situations where one says that women cannot be expected to think logically or that men lack empathy. Gender-based harassment also occurs when colleagues belittle their colleague, who is often forced to stay away from work due to the care of a sick child, or when an employee is threatened with termination of employment contract if she becomes pregnant. Harassment also occurs, for example, when an employee with a small child or a disabled family member is degraded due to the fact that he or she is unable to participate in longer missions abroad. Gender-based harassment can also occur when an employer divides tasks based on stereotypes. For example, if making coffee and cleaning is entrusted only to female employees, and technical knowledge and skills are expected of all male employees. Gender-based harassment also occurs in a situation where a female employee is called names, such as “chick”, the purpose of which is to humiliate or treat a person primarily as a sexual object, but not as a full-fledged employee.

As a rule, such behaviour becomes abusive when it occurs repeatedly, but it does not always have to be repetitive.

If you did not find an answer to your concern, you may contact the Estonian Commissioner for Gender Equality and Equal Treatment in a free format by sending an email to avaldus@volinik.ee. When contacting the Commissioner, the identity of the person shall not be disclosed and, upon request, anonymity shall be guaranteed.