Gender Equality

Sexual Discrimination, Harassment and Violence

To publicly address the issue of sexual discrimination and violence in the workplace or the study environment was off-limits until a few years ago, even though it exists in a varity of forms. This involves unwanted physical contact, verbal offensiveness -  both written and spoken - as well as spreading pornographic pictures, stalking, sexual blackmailing and assault. Most of the victims are females. A lot of women do not enforce their rights because they are afraid of becoming a subject of gossip, being bullied or losing their jobs.

Already back in 1994 a law existed to protect people from sexual harassment in the workplace within the framework of the second Equality Law as an independent Employment Act. The objective of the law was to protect all employees in the public service and the private sector from sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. It acknowledged the right of appeal and forced the employers and the supervisors to implement suitable measures against sexual harassment and violence as well as to carry out prevention. In practise, it had turned out that the Employment Act was little known. Furthermore, it did not apply directly for students. These students were only included within the area of its application if they had an employment contract. With the entry into force of the Allgemeinen Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG) the Employment Act was repealed in 2006. The AGG defines and sanctions sexual harassment in the workplace but does not include students. Since universities have a fiduaciary duty for their students, a gap occurs that needs to be filled. That is why the  Federal State Conference of Equal Opportunity Commissioners (LaKoF) claimed to include measures to protect students from sexual harassment and violence in the course of the amendment of the new Higher Education Act in 2007, which was not considered. The LaKoF will claim this again with support of the presidents of Kiel University and Lübeck University in 2015.

Stalking (and coincided actions like trespassing, verbal slander, assault and battery as well as sexual coercion), sexual abuse and rape are criminal offences. They sould be reported to the police which also offers suport to victims. Additionally to criminal prosecution, there are more possible police interventions like averting of a danger or prevention. In case of criminal offences you can also refer to the Syndika of the university.

You can find further information on sexual discrimination and violence (in German) at higher education institutions at the respective commission of The Federal Conference of Gender Equality Officers in Higher Education in Germany - (BukoF).