U.N. to Reform Sexual Harassment Policies

Jun 19, 2009

The United Nations plans to overhaul its internal justice system in July to ensure that sexual harassment complaints are properly investigated and resolved, according to May news reports in the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal. The reforms are in response to pressure from international women’s rights groups, which charged that U.N. practices involving sexual harassment complaints were unfair, took too long to address and were badly mishandled – in part because they allow colleagues of the accused to investigate harassment charges.

Women’s advocates, however, are not satisfied with the coming changes. Yasmeen Hassan, an attorney with Equality Now, an international women’s rights group based in New York, told the Wall Street Journal she has “no faith” that the new system will adequately address sexual harassment complaints, in part because victims still won’t have access to outcomes of their own investigative reports.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that the system is troubled in a letter to Equality Now back in February. It said, “I fully share your concerns regarding sexual harassment and sex discrimination…This scourge remains a high priority issue for me.” U.N. officials say that the new system will professionalize and speed up the process of handling of complaints.

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