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Policy Lab on Global Sexual Harassment Lawmaking submits model codes to the World Bank Legal Vice Presidency

August 03, 2021

The model codes address “gender-based harassment in the virtual world of work.”

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Policy Lab on Global Sexual Harassment Lawmaking taught by Senior Adjunct Professor of Global Leadership Rangita de Silva de Alwis has submitted their model codes on “gender-based harassment in the virtual world of work” and “online harassment against women in political participation” to the World Bank Legal Vice Presidency.

“As more workplaces have moved online, so has the harassment,” writes the authors of the report. “And although anyone can be subjected to harassment online, women, especially women of color, trans, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people, women who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, women who are ethnic minorities, and other women at the intersection of more than one marginalized identities are especially vulnerable.”

The report avers that many organizations lack the tools “to address existing problems, educate and protect workers, and prevent future harassment from occurring” – and that the time to fill that gap is now. The authors emphasize their hope that their report can “serve as a helpful starting point” for organizations striving to “create a safe and equitable workplace – whether that place is virtual, physical or both.”

Key recommendations and highlights of the report

The authors begin with an expanded definition of sexual harassment so that it focuses on “purpose of the conduct: not as an expression of sexual interest – which a narrow conception of sexual harassment would be confined to – but rather as an instrument to maintain and enforce the harasser’s location in a gendered hierarchy.” The report further addresses the importance of acknowledging intersectionality in the creation of layers of oppression and discrimination and recognizing sexual harassment as a human rights violation.

The report also stresses the inclusion of non-traditional workers (interns, contractors, temps, clerks, fellows, etc.) in the scope of federal sexual harassment laws and the creation of specific reporting mechanisms for such individuals that make their reporting options clear and efficient. The authors advocate for new watchdogs, ombudspersons, and other mechanisms for addressing sex-based harassment.

Also included within the report are a model training module for the virtual world of work and a model code of conduct for the virtual world of work as well as an examination of online sexual harassment in the context of women’s political participation.

Professor de Silva de Alwis wishes to thank the World Bank’s Paula Tavares for the important partnership with the Policy Lab as well Chair and Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights Carmelyn P. Malalis, Under Secretary General Phumile Mlambo Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, and other leaders at UN Women. She is also grateful to Vicki Schultz, Yale Law School’s Ford Foundation Professor of Law and Political Science for her support of the lab and helping to conceptualize a new definition of sex-based harassment.

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