Article source co-authored with Johanna HIGGS : Sexual Harassment is a Crime, Let’s Make it a Crime against Humanity

.. due to the global and widespread nature of sexual harassment and the extreme levels of psychological and physical harm caused, on both moral and legal grounds sexual harassment should be regarded as a crime against humanity. Indeed, sexual harassment is in line with the definition of crime against humanity as per the Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC Statute).

Article 7(e) of the statute states ‘imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law,’ constitute as a crime against humanity. When a woman feels afraid to leave her home, go to work, then sexual harassment deprives her of being able to fully participate in social and economic life. The level of fear and terror produced from high levels of sexual harassment may have similar affects to those produced through terrorism and other severely harmful acts. Sexual harassment should therefore should be considered in the same way.

According to the statue Article 7(h) crimes against humanity include ‘persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3 or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law.’ Sexual harassment might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation of another, as defined by the United Nations. This can count as persecution on the grounds of gender.

Article 7(g) of the statute says, ‘rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity.’ The psychological damage caused by extreme levels of sexual harassment can be that similar to any of the above mentioned.

Article 7(k) of the statute states crimes of humanity includes, ‘other humane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.’ Depending on the frequency in which the sexual harassment occurs and how often it takes place, the effects of sexual harassment can cause extreme stress and depression. Psychologists and social workers report for example, that extreme sexual harassment can have the same damaging effects as rape or sexual assault.

It is essential that every action to counter attitudes that justify sexual harassment are taken. Without any legal protections, women may find themselves trapped between harassers and those who excuse sexual harassment, leaving her with no means to find protection,all which makes it more likely that she will be harassed again. This vicious circle created by sexual harassment and its apologists will ensure that sexual harassment not only continues but the psychological harm also continues.