Salmond’s research is having a significant impact on the momentum for change brought on by the #MeToo movement, according to workplace bullying experts and activists.
They have told The Guardian that the political crisis that convulses Holyrood has also had a “chilling” and “demoralizing” effect on women in terms of their confidence to report unacceptable behavior.
The handling of allegations of sexual harassment against Salmond by two public officials was found to be illegal and “tainted by apparent biases” following a judicial review filed by the former prime minister in January 2019.
A year later, he was acquitted of 13 counts of sexual assault in Edinburgh’s High Court and has since claimed that senior officials close to the current Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, were involved in a “malicious plot” to destroy his reputation.
With two high-profile investigations underway into the Scottish government’s handling of the initial complaints and Sturgeon’s own conduct, concerns about the broader impact on women have risen.
When Sturgeon gave his testimony for the Holyrood investigation on Wednesday, he placed his government’s decision to create a new procedure to deal with sexual harassment firmly within the global context of #MeToo, the movement fueled by shocking revelations about the film producer. American Harvey Weinstein in fall 2017.
In his opening remarks to the committee, Sturgeon said: “The spotlight was on historic workplace bullying in late 2017, a long time ago.” And when she was later challenged by Salmond’s argument that the new policy had been expanded to apply to former ministers with Salmond in mind, she responded: “Seeing it that way ignores what was happening globally at the time. It was about the #MeToo revelations. “
While the momentum generated from 2017 may have forced individual employers to review their policies, how they work in practice depends on the broader cultural context, said Kirsty Thomson, director of Just Right Scotland, a charitable group of rights lawyers. humans.
“What is happening right now with the Salmond investigation is having a really significant impact. From what we hear, it’s having a chilling effect, ”said Thomson, who also leads the legal team at the Scottish Women’s Rights Center, which provides free legal advice to women affected by violence and abuse.
“Any organization can say ‘here’s a harassment policy,’ but someone should feel safe using it.”
Roz Foyer, STUC secretary general, expressed similar concerns. She said: “My biggest fear is that the way we are discussing this research is not encouraging more women to come forward or confront inappropriate behavior in the future.”
Referring to the TUC research that found that more than half of women in the UK had experienced sexual harassment at work, while four-fifths did not feel able to report it, she said she had heard in particular from women more young people in the last days “about the fact that [the Salmond inquiry] it is a very stimulating experience for them ”.
“As someone whose own activism stems from a formative experience of sexual harassment in the workplace [Foyer was harassed by a senior male manager when she was 17] I can certainly feel empathy. It is a very demoralizing experience to see the way this whole issue has finally been answered and dealt with by the people in power. There is a lot of party politicking, but there is not much constructive engagement around the fact that women who suffer harassment at work is endemic in society and has to end. “
The momentum around #MeToo was felt as strongly in Scotland as internationally, said Nicole Busby, professor of human rights, equality and justice at the University of Glasgow. “I saw him talking to the young women that I teach, and this growing recognition that sexual harassment can happen to anyone has a lot to do with power and that it is unacceptable. That was a change from the women of my generation who had tolerated it for years. “
Busby, who has a particular expertise in harassment court work, said “I cannot stress enough” the importance of retrospective policies like the policy that the Scottish government formulated in 2017. “The courts are usually quite flexible on in terms of deadlines because they recognize that victims may be traumatized or it is too difficult to act at that time due to the power dynamics involved. “
Public discussion around the investigation was not helpful, said Emma Ritch, director of Scotland’s feminist political organization Engender, adding to confusion around the difference between criminal law and sexual harassment policy and reinforcing myths. on the likelihood of women making false accusations.
“There is a general feeling among women who speak to us that this has been exceptionally unpleasant and even re-traumatizing for women who have been sexually harassed. One of the things women are most attuned to when making complaints is the possibility of losing control over the process. What has happened with Salmond’s investigation has magnified this: that he could find himself at the center of a national scandal, where people feel free to contest his motives and whatever they want to talk about becomes party politics or the constitution. ” .
For Foyer, the formula for change remains practical and cultural. She said: “We need strong, independent procedures that women can trust. It is up to each employer to take responsibility, but we can all do more. As unions, we have a role in ensuring this issue is addressed, politicians have a role in how they talk about cases like this and the prominence they give to root causes, and the media have a role to play as well. ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism