Saturday 21 September 2019

Emma Watson helps launch sexual harassment advice line for women

The aim of the advice line is to help plug a gap in the availability of legal advice.

Emma Watson (Matt Crossick/PA)
Emma Watson (Matt Crossick/PA)

By Helen William, PA

Actress Emma Watson has urged women to understand their rights as she helped launch a legal advice line for those who are suffering sexual harassment at work.

The Harry Potter star and Time’s Up UK activist said it is “completely staggering” that the free advice line – 020 7490 0152 – for women in England and Wales is the only service of its type.

Pointing out that TUC research has found that as many as one in two women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, she said: “It finally feels like people are realising the scale of the problem, and I’m certainly hopeful that with global standards such as the recent International Labour Organisation treaty on harassment at work, we’ll start to see a new climate of prevention and accountability on this issue domestically.”

Understanding what your rights are, how you can assert them, and the choices you have if you've experienced harassment is such a vital part of creating safe workplaces for everyone Emma Watson

Donations from members of the public, including Watson, helped to kickstart the advice line, which is backed by the Time’s Up UK Justice and Equality Fund, and managed by Rosa, which is the UK Fund for Women and Girls.

Advice is provided by Rights of Women, a charity which works to help women through the law.

Watson said: “Understanding what your rights are, how you can assert them, and the choices you have if you’ve experienced harassment is such a vital part of creating safe workplaces for everyone, and this advice line is such a huge development in ensuring that all women are supported, wherever we work.”

The aim of the advice line is to help plug a gap in the availability of legal advice so that women can get the right help and support they need to hold their employer and harasser to account.

Rights of Women’s senior legal officer Deeba Syed described workplace sexual harassment as a “hidden problem” even though it has reached “epidemic levels”.

She said: “This advice line’s purpose is to empower women to exercise their legal rights in the workplace. By advising women about their legal options and increasing their understanding of equalities and discrimination law, we will be able to help them make informed choices about next steps, including how to navigate the legal system with confidence.

“We know that complaints of sexual harassment at work are still frequently responded to in a gendered manner that is negative, undermining or can lead to victimisation.

“That is why Rights of Women will also work towards dismantling the underlying structural problems that puts the burden on victims and makes it difficult for women to come forward through its policy work.”

Time’s UP UK chairman Dame Heather Rabbatts welcomed the scheme as a move to help vulnerable women who urgently need legal advice and information, while Rosa’s project director hoped it would give women the confidence to call out harassment and for employers to take action on it.

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