The legal program was established at Kayan in 2006, with the goal of increasing Palestinian women’s access to justice, advancing their legal status, and ending rights violations against them within legal and judiciary institutions.
Sexual Harassment In the Workplace
Sexual Harassment in the workplace is an ongoing form of violence that diminishes the security of Palestinian women in Israel. While no official data is available about the prevalence of sexual harassment against Palestinian women in Israel, from our staff’s work in the field, we know that this issue is wide-spread, though rarely spoken about. One of the reasons that this violence persists is due to the fact that Palestinian women fear to speak out against harassment, as this can lead to the loss of their jobs, social ostracism, and threats against them. Thus, Kayan’s work to end sexual harassment in the workplace takes a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of sexual harassment as related to gender-based power relations. Our approach seeks to end taboos that keep women from speaking out, enforce existing laws, empower women to report on violations, and change gender-dynamics and social norms in order to end sexual harassment within our society.
Some of Kayan’s Activities to End Sexual Harassment
Sexual Harassment Prevention Hotline
Through Kayan’s hotline we provide direct and free legal support to women who face sexual harassment in the workplace violations. Our staff is specially trained to deal with this issue, as we understand the sensitivity surrounding sexual harassment, and the threats that women face in relation to reporting abuse. We encourage women to take action, but always put their security first. For women who do decide to report, Kayan’s staff provide direct legal assistance and representation.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Workshops and Trainings
Our workshops and trainings target women, employers, and employees, with the purpose of raising the taboo topic of sexual harassment, and promoting open and honest discussions about this issue. We supplement these workshops with legal information in order to ensure that all relevant target groups fully understand the laws and regulations governing proper behavior in the workplace.
Our sexual harassment prevention campaigns target the entire Palestinian society in Israel. The value of these campaigns is that they break the silence about this issue, work towards shifting the blame from victim to abuser, and end the ongoing denial that sexual harassment exists in the Palestinian society. A major outcome of our campaigns has been an increase in awareness of this issue, which we have seen in the media and through an increase in requests for Kayan sexual harassment prevention workshops. Amongst those who have requested workshops after our campaigns, are employers, employees, NGOs, and civil institutions.
According to Israel’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Law (1998), all employments with 10 or more employees must have published sexual harassment protocols and an appointee for the prevention of sexual harassment. While this law is widely disregarded amongst employers, after conducting a mapping, Kayan was troubled to find that local governmental authorities have also failed to adhere. Thus, a major element of our work to end sexual harassment in the workplace has been advocating for the enforcement of the law in Palestinian local authorities, which are major employers, and should be held as model employments. From our work the majority of local authorities are now complying with law. We are now expanding our advocacy efforts in order to ensure that other major institutions and employers are implementing the law, and are taking measures to ensure the security of women workers. Part of this process has been working with employees themselves in order to empower them to be active advocates for women’s rights and for ending sexual harassment in their workplaces.
The Forum of Appointees for Sexual Harassment Prevention
While Israeli law stipulates that all employments with 10 or more employees must have an appointee for sexual harassment prevention, from our research we found that the majority of these appointees do not have knowledge or capacities to fulfill their role. Thus, Kayan has developed a Forum of Appointees For Sexual Harassment Prevention. Appointees in the Forum meet with Kayan for capacity development workshops, study days, and receive ongoing support and updates on laws from Kayan’s staff.