Sexual harassment continues to be a plague within our society that we just cannot seem to get rid of. Sexual harassment rears its ugly head in all sorts of settings – transportation, politics, the arts, hospitality and even medicine.
A 2018 survey found that in Australia alone, 40% of women and 26% of men experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace in the last 5 years. Even more shockingly, 72% of Australians over the age of 15 have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime.
How is it that this continues to happen within our society?
Technically speaking, our laws around sexual harassment, both federally and at state/territory level, are quite strong. The problem is that only around 17% of people who experience harassment actually come forward to make an official complaint.
Those that do come forward then go through internal grievance procedures which may result in a warning or slap on the wrist for the aggressor. More serious circumstances are referred to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) or an equivalent State/Territory body. Conciliation then takes place with each party meeting to determine an outcome. If no agreement can be made, the matter can then go to the courts.
The issue then lies with the actual punishment for aggressors. The system is set up in order to manage sexual harassment and to encourage settlement through either internal processes or through the AHRC or equivalent. Persons who are affected by sexual harassment that decide to take the matter to court run the risk of high legal costs, time needs and problems with providing proof which in most cases actually dissuades cases reaching the courts.
The system therefore may be the first problem in that it looks to address the issue after the fact instead of trying to prevent it from happening.
This is where oversight becomes such an important aspect to consider in workplaces as the current structure waits for something wrong to happen and then also requires the victim to formally complain before any action can be taken.
So how do we fix the system?
One way, as recommended by the AHRC, suggests amending current sexual harassment laws which make hostile environments for individuals unlawful. So, for instance, if a passenger in a rideshare or taxi is sexually harassed during their journey, the law would dictate that environment to be a hostile one where the driver is liable for their actions and punishable to the full extent of the law.
Another recommendation is pushing the creation of ‘positive duty’ on employers to take reasonable and proportionate actions to eliminate sexual harassment from occurring. This for instance would mean fleet managers and owners taking the necessary steps to ensure their drivers are properly trained and versed on not only what sexual harassment is and how to avoid it, but also the consequences.
The passenger transport industry has become particularly bad in regard to sexual harassment, especially with the growth of rideshare services like Uber, Didi and Ola. With minimal driver training, no requirement for the driver to be interviewed or personally selected, no security cameras in vehicles and passengers often requiring transportation whilst under the influence of drugs and alcohol, cases of harassment have been growing. A survey in Australia found that half of respondents had experienced unwanted flirting, comments about their appearance and in some cases even nonconsensual touching.
This has created a passenger culture where individuals, for their own safety, have taken steps to protect themselves by;
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Not using a taxi or rideshare alone
- Giving drivers fake addresses to avoid stalking
- Sharing journey details with friends or family in case something ‘happens’
It is hard to believe these are the precautions passengers now have to resort to in order to protect themselves from sexual harassment.
At DRVR Training we believe that education is the best tool to help prevent instances of sexual harassment. What we have learnt is that many drivers are unaware that some of their actions and words are harmful and a form of sexual harassment which is why we have designed a Anti-Discrimination & Sexual Harassment Training course that teaches drivers;
- What sexual harassment is, how to recognise it and how to avoid it
The attributes relevant to anti-discrimination
- The difference between direct and indirect discrimination
- How Discrimination Occurs
- How to Avoid Discrimination & Stereotypes
- The effects and consequences of discrimination
- the legal implications of sexual harassment and how to protect yourself and your livelihood
- Acting professionally through your words, actions and body language
- Tips to provide the highest level of service
If you are a driver or manager drivers in the taxi, booked hire or rideshare industry, it’s your responsibility to step up and stamp out the archaic behaviour of sexual harassment. Let’s educate drivers and lift the passenger transport industry to the higher levels of safety and respect.