Global Perspectives on Sexual Harassment: Challenges and Legal Measures

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We can hardly obtain accurate figures on the incidence of sexual harassment in countries across the world, especially in areas where this topic of sexual harassment is sensitive and cannot be discussed publicly. Therefore, it is difficult to compare the figures among various countries, especially when the victims are reluctant to report. Issues related to methodological aspects also make the situation more complicated, mainly due to the use of non-standardized measures of sexual harassment and the difficulties associated with recruiting respondents and questioning sample representation. (Sigal & Jacobsen, 1999).

The Global Challenge: Incidence and Reports

However, international sexual harassment is indeed a big problem. We can find these problems in various reports: Data from Asian countries indicate a high rate of sexual harassment. As with violent crimes, the number of sexual harassment is extremely difficult to estimate because this kind of crime is usually underestimated. But we can still infer the full picture from a small point. For example, the International Federation of Trade Unions estimated that 30-40% of female workers in the Asia Pacific region reported harassment to some extent in 2008. (Vaswani, 2017)

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In Japan, a survey conducted in 2001 showed that about 75% of respondents experienced at least one incident of harassment (Killion, 2004). This figure is also consistent with the findings of the Korean study reported in the ILO report.

In Asia, the price of sexual harassment is not high. Take Cambodia’s garment industry. Take Cambodia’s clothing industry as an example. Women account for 85% of the national labor force and are crucial to the success of the garment industry. This sector accounts for one-third of Cambodia’s economy. However, a recent study shows that they are also the victims of sexual harassment because they have far less power than their male colleagues, especially the bosses and managers. (Vaswani, 2017)

Killion also indicates that sexual harassment of women in mainland China is not even considered a social issue because other issues, such as economic ones, are always given more priority than any other human rights issue. Killion claims that in China, the law has not yet been enacted, and international anti-sexual harassment protection standards have not been implemented, leaving women without any official choice to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. (Killion, 2004)

In the Middle East, Turkey is described as a society, and because of its patriarchal nature, harassment may be extensive (Wasti et al., 2000). Obtaining figures on sexual harassment in other patriarchal cultures, such as Pakistan, is very difficult. However, Barak (1997) speculates that sexual harassment may be widespread in a country in the same region, India.

A recent study conducted by Simelane under the auspices of the African Women Educationalists Forum (FAWE) showed that “all forms of sexual harassment are reported to be ubiquitous on campus” in a major university in South Africa.

In general, the incidence rates in individualist countries such as Canada and Western Europe are comparable to those in the United States, although estimates can range from a very low percentage to more than 90%. A further report by the International Labor shows that 2% or 3 million employees in the European Union (EU) countries have experienced sexual harassment by women workers at a higher rate than female employees. The report shows that these figures vary widely from country to country, possibly because of different reporting rates and not different rates of sexual harassment.

International Laws Against Sexual Harassment

By the year 2000, a total of 31 countries had set up sexual specified harassment legislation, but these laws varied widely in terms of penalties and enforcement (Sigal, 2004).

Sigal et al. proposed that there are at least three general types of anti-sexual harassment laws:

  1. Allow victims of sexual harassment to sue for penalties (for example, in the United States, the United States);
  2. Laws that criminalize sexual harassment (for example, the Philippines and Taiwan); and
  3. Legislation allows employees to quit their jobs and receive compensation from employers (e.g., in Germany).

The European Union and the European Commission have formulated policies and directives for the resolution of sexual harassment, which have been translated into ‘legally binding laws” for all countries. The two organizations describe sexual harassment as sexual discrimination, which hampers the right to dignity in the workplace. Major countries such as Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, and the United Kingdom all received these instructions.

Countries such as Albania, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Machaon, Moldova, Moldova and Moore. Dova, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine are the contingent-owned states that need to implement these directives. Brazil and other Latin American countries have signed the United States Convention on the prevention, punishment, and elimination of violence against women.


Since 1995, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh, Japan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Hongkong have all enacted laws against sexual harassment. In India, the Supreme Court found that sexual harassment was a major social problem and provided steps or guidelines for preventing sexual harassment. There is no special sexual harassment law in China, but the Constitution and other laws do indicate that sexual harassment of women shall be prohibited. It is worth noting that in China, sexual harassment can only be targeted at women but not men. In fact, there are many cases in which men are sexually harassed and even raped. For example, the case of a 53-year-old man being raped by a man has aroused a wide range of attention. (, 2016)


  1. Sigal, J., & Jacobsen, J. (1999). Methodological Issues in Cross-Cultural Research on Sexual Harassment. In R. King & E. L. B. Meulen (Eds.), Women’s Studies in the 21st Century: Proceedings of the Second International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women (pp. 119-126). Utrecht, The Netherlands: Universiteit Utrecht.
  2. Vaswani, K. (2017). Sexual Harassment in the Asia Pacific Region: A Comparative Study of Legislation and Implementation. Singapore: Springer.
  3. Killion, L. A. (2004). Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Global Challenge. London, UK: Lexington Books.

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Global Perspectives on Sexual Harassment: Challenges and Legal Measures. (2023, Aug 29). Retrieved from

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