Australian deputy PM latest to resign in global harassment clampdown


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Sexual harassers in the public sphere are being held to account after the scandal around Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein raised global awareness of the issue, leading to a series of revelations of misconduct, and resulting in the resignations of entertainment figures, charity bosses, and politicians.

On Friday, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced that he would resign from his post and as leader of the National party. Joyce came under scrutiny and was being pressured to resign after it came to light that he had an affair with a former staffer, with whom he is now expecting a baby.

That story has dominated the Australian press for the past two weeks. Joyce then decided to quit after a new allegation of sexual harassment emerged on Thursday from an unnamed woman from West Australia, as reported by the ABC.

His resignation comes after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he would ban sexual relations between government ministers and their staff after the discovery that Joyce had fathered a child with his media adviser, Vikki Campion. Turnbull said Joyce’s affair was a “shocking error of judgment” last week.

In Britain, allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior, ranging from sexual exploitation to groping to rape, have rocked British politics since November, and more recently the aid sector.

Ex-Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth has resigned from Unicef, the United Nation’s children’s fund, after the BBC reported on three complaints of inappropriate behavior towards female staff. Forsyth said he did not want the allegations to damage the reputation of the charities. (Read the WikiTribune exclusive: UN tackles sexual abuse but scale of challenge clear.)

Meanwhile, the government of Haiti has suspended Oxfam GB operations (New York Times) in the country for two months as it investigates claims of sexual misconduct by staff in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Oxfam’s deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence resigned after the British arm of Oxfam acknowledged that former staff members hosted sex parties with prostitutes in staff housing.

Oxfam said it would set up an independent commission to investigate past and current claims of sexual exploitation at the organization. Oxfam International’s executive director Winnie Byanyima said it would “atone for the past,” but said sexual harassment and exploitation are “widespread problems” that all organizations need to fight.

British politics is also aiming to reform workplace culture and curb harassment after a leaked report by the House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said that one in five people (The Independent) at Westminster had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment. Former first secretary of state and one of the prime minister’s closest allies (The Guardian) Damian Green was sacked from the cabinet in December after journalist Kate Maltby claimed the MP sent her an inappropriate text and touched her knee. Green says he agreed to resign for misleading a police investigation into pornography found on his office computer.

Victims of sexual harassment at the Houses of Parliament will be able to officially report misconduct with the launch of a new complaints procedure proposed by a cross-party working group led by Leadsom. The grievance procedure includes a code of conduct (The Guardian) and a trained sexual violence adviser, and staff found to have harassed other parliament workers will have to write a letter of apology and undergo training. In serious cases they could face suspension or deselection.

Practical and emotional support will also be provided to complainants, who will have control of cases of misconduct. Allegations won’t have to go through the criminal justice system but the most serious offences would go to the governmental Committee on Standards, said Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson on the BBC’s Today program. Swinson, a member of the committee proposing the complaints procedure, also said that both parties – the accused and accuser – would be granted full anonymity to limit the chances of victims being named.

This is an emerging story which needs expansion. If you wish you may EDIT to add information or discuss it in TALK.

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