Sexual Harrasment: A Europe with dignity

Written by Anna Záborská on 22 November 2018 in Opinion

Dignity is more than a human right, it is an integral part of Europe’s culture and one that we must support, says Anna Záborská.

Photo credit: European Parliament AudioVisual

The Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo campaign have led to a wider public debate, one which has helped to redraw the boundaries of what constitutes sexual harassment and acceptable behaviour.

The European Parliament has adopted a report with concrete measures and tools on how to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace, in public and even in politics.

As a shadow rapporteur, I strongly condemn all improper and abusive behaviour against women, in every sphere of life. In our constantly changing society, we should learn to respect the dignity of every person.


Human dignity is one of the fundamental values of the European Union and is the cornerstone of human rights. Each person has their own intrinsic value and as such is worthy of respect.

This respect is an important part of our cultural tradition. It is a moral compass that tells us how we should treat others in our everyday social interactions.

Sexual harassment fundamentally undermines people’s dignity and reduces them to objects. As Pope John Paul II said: “There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person.”

Respect and protection of the dignity of every woman, man, or child is also an imperative of the law. However, enforcement can be difficult in situations where the boundaries are not clearly defined.

The #MeToo movement has sent an important signal that the key to combatting sexual harassment is sensitivity. We all need to become more aware of others and show future generations the true meaning of dignity in everyday life.

“Human dignity is one of the fundamental values of the European Union and is the cornerstone of human rights”

This is an important task for both educators and for parents and families. A very important aspect that remains largely unnoticed is discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and motherhood.

I was able to convince my colleagues that it is important to recognise this phenomenon in employment as a form of bullying. It can lead to stigmatisation of motherhood as such, thus discouraging women from building a family.

In the context of a demographic decline in Europe, this kind of harassment is not only morally wrong but has also devastating consequences for societies built on solidarity between generations.

Finally, there is the problem of violence against elderly people, particularly older single women, who represent a particularly vulnerable social group when facing psychological and physical harassment and bullying.

Future generations will judge us for how we behaved towards our most vulnerable. The fight against sexual harassment is a marathon, not a sprint.

The new European Parliament and Commission will have to continue their efforts. In education, the EU may not adopt legally binding acts; however, it can build the value of human dignity into all its policies.

Our opinions on the best tools to fight this negative phenomenon can differ, but our objective must remain the same: to eradicate violence in any form from our society.

About the author

Anna Záborská (EPP, PL) is a shadow rapporteur on the European Parliament’s report on combatting mobbing and sexual harassment

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