Q10 – Sexual harassment laws

This question was asked to the public in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the UK in the Sustainable Development Misconception Study 2020

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What share of countries in the world have laws against sexual harassment at work?

a) Around 35%

b) Around 55%

c) Around 75%

Correct answer

Around 75% of countries have laws against sexual harassment at work.

There are many laws but not much enforcement

In 2013, roughly 74% of countries had laws against sexual harassment at work. In 2017 it was almost 80%. The #metoo movement helped people realize the massive global problem of sexual harassment of women by male collegues and bosses at work. How much the movement has helped improve laws is not yet clear, but it’s likely that even more countries have laws against sexual harassment in place today, which would be a great start…but not enough.

”While having laws on the books is important, it is not sufficient. In many places, adequate laws may coexist with high prevalence of domestic violence or sexual harassment.” says the report Ending Violence against women and girls.

As long as men keep thinking there will be no punishment, many bullies, harassers and abusers know they can do what they want without consequences. Even with a law in place, many women feel too powerless to dare to speak out. Thanks to the #metoo movement, all kinds of organizations and companies have realised they must have committed leadership to end sexual harassment. Finally there’s some hope that the norms can start changing and the laws will become useful.

Data sources

The data used in this question comes from 2017 [1]. There are likely to be more countries who introduced laws after the outrage and increased awareness caused by the #metoo movement, which revealed how widespread sexual harassment in the workplace is. The source also mentions that while almost 80% of countries have laws against sexual harassment at work, actual criminal penalties are in place in less than half. Another issue is that laws in different countries might define sexual harassment differently. That is why we chose the answer option “more than 75%” and put big differences between the three answer options to be sure that the incorrect options were clearly wrong.

Source 1 – World Bank – “Global and Regional Trends in Women’s Legal Protection Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Harassment” from March 2018. (Page 9).

Source 2 – Efforts to prevent sexual harassment in academia, Report 2020:1, An international research review