Over 1000 women seafarers share sexual harassment experiences

Swedish women and business are battling against sexual harassment. Over 1000 women have shared their experiences under a Swedish version of #metoo, #lättaankar.

Photo: Arkivfoto/Colourbox

1,150 Swedish women in the Swedish shipping industry have shared witness accounts of of sexual harassment and abuse on board vessels.

Last year's global campaign against sexual harassment and abuse of women under the umbrella of the #metoo hashtag has also hit the maritime industry, where sexual harassment of women has been a huge problem for many years.

Swedish women under the hashtag #lättaankar have shared over 1000 witness accounts of their experiences on board Swedish vessels on Facebook, and this week saw a summit organized by several industry partners to discuss harassment prevention.

One woman reports that she has been exposed to sexual harassment since she began to work as a sailor at the age of 16.

"Everything, ranging from my superior saying that as a woman on board, it was my duty to sleep with those who do this, to a man coming into my cabin one night," she wrote on the Facebook page.

Another described an evening in the dining hall, where eight colleagues were sitting and chatting.

"I was sitting on a chair with my back to the doorway, when I felt something touching my neck. I turn around and there was an engineer with his pants down, breathing down my neck. Everyone thought it was hysterical, except me."

Rikard Engström, CEO of the Swedish Shipowners' Association, says in a press release that harassment irrespective of what, how and against whom can never be accepted in a society, and shipping is no exception.

"For us, it is an important issue and it is central to the entire industry that we carry out a solid and long-term effort with these issues. A timely action plan and concrete measures to prevent harassment are an important part of it," he says.

Since Jan.1 2017, new provisions on active measures in Swedish discrimination law have been adopted, says Ellen Landberg, who works with equality and diversity at the trade union for managers Lederne.

"This means that employers must have routines and guidelines to prevent harassment, sexual harassment and retaliation. When an issue arises, organizations must address the incident and ensure that there is no retaliation against the complainant," she says in the statement.

English Edit: Lena Rutkowski

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