One in ten female municipal council members sexually harassed

Although Denmark comes high in polls to choose where is the ‘Best country to be a woman’, the problem of sexual harassment of women in politics is more widespread than previously thought

Sexual harassment has recently been in the news in the political sphere due to a number of women politicians having shared their experiences of sexist behaviour.

It is clearly not confined to Christiansborg. A survey carried out by Berlingske Research amongst Denmark’s 2,444 municipal council members has come up with the result that more than one in 10 of the female ones have experienced sexual harassment or insults from their political colleagues.

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Out of 727 women, 312 responded to the survey and 75 of these answered “yes” when asked whether they had experienced ‘verbal affronts or comments’ which they regarded as sexist.

Of these, 39 (or a little over 12 percent) had experienced them during the last six months.

“This is a great many. It is very worrying that it should happen so frequently in the municipalities, Karen Sjørup, a researcher in gender issues at Roskilde University, told Berlingske.

A laddish culture from the past
Sjørup went on to say that “local government is very male-dominated, and this culture has been allowed to survive as a hangover from the past.”

The minister for equality, Karen Ellemann was surprised at the extent of the reported sexist behaviour. She feels that it could pose a problem for democracy as a whole.

“As minister for equality I’m extremely angry that the figures are so high. Partly because this is fundamentally unacceptable, but I’m also worried that it may prevent some people from getting involved in politics.”

The minister would like to see these problems high on the agenda. “We have to discuss this. There’s a council election in the autumn and new town councils will be constituted. When that happens, the political environment needs to be safer,” Elleman said.