The behavior is often subtle. “Male colleagues are looking at you from top to bottom in the hallway, for example.” But sometimes men are also victims. “I know an employee, a gay man, who was contacted through a dating app by a Member of Parliament. He called that employee into his office. When the employee came into the office, he found a Member of Parliament masturbating behind his desk.”
The main reason is the imbalance of power between employees and politicians, some of whom are referred to as “sun kings”. “Politicians have a certain status and privileges,” Bouvenyard says. “But at the same time there is a little control over their behavior, they can really do whatever they want.” Anyone who talks about inappropriate behavior as an employee usually gets the short straw. “Even if there is evidence, a parliamentarian cannot lose his seat because of it.”
Samira Raphael, Member of the European Parliament, is the decision maker. She understands the difference in power that exists between officials and politicians. “Some parliamentarians abuse their influential position,” says Raffaella. “We must dare say that abuse of power also occurs in the European Parliament.”
Another problem, she says, is diplomatic immunity. Because although sexual assault is punishable, diplomats in Brussels are protected from prosecution.
A step further
Yesterday’s resolution got 516 votes in favour – by a large majority. However, there were also dissenting voices. According to Rafaella, the resistance lies in duty. “Some parliamentarians think they don’t need it at all, others take it as an attack and take it personally. This is especially true of male colleagues.”
The voters who voted against it came mainly from conservative circles. Some Christian Democrats also voted against it.
Rafaela is happy with the result, but in fact he wants to go one step further. Defend a list that keeps track of who has completed the course Not attended. “Then you can explain to your constituents why you shouldn’t. It doesn’t take much time at all. As a Member of Parliament, just show that you take the matter seriously.”
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