Iran’s Women Reporters Suffer Widespread Sexual Harassment, Magazine Reports

By Azadeh Karimi

A recent survey conducted among a group of 59 female news reporters by the Tehran-based monthly magazine Communication Management (magiran) has shown that 90 percent of them experienced some types of sexual harassment at least once in their newsgathering activity.

The report — titled “A Study of Women Reporters’ Experience with Sexual Harassment While Gathering News,” and published in the December-January issue of the magazine — said that 36 percent of the incidents involved inappropriate behavior by male government officials and others in the private sector.

The report did not include any data on cases of rape.

The participants in the survey have been working as journalists anywhere from 3 to 25 years and are from media outlets with a wide range of political affiliations.

A chart published by the magazine divided the data into two sections titled:  “90 Percent of Women News Reporters in Iran Have Experienced Sexual Harassment At Least Once” and “36 Percent of the Harassment Incidents Involved Male Government and Non-Government Officials.”

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In the first section, the data showed that while 65 percent of harassment was verbal, 32 percent happened on the internet, including on social media, and 3 percent involved inappropriate touching.

Also, while 66 percent of female victims ignored the incident, 28 percent confronted the inappropriate behavior, and 6 percent physically repelled the perpetrator.

The data showed that 36 percent of the perpetrators were male government and non-government officials, 22 percent were male members of the public who harassed the women while they were reporting on locations, 10 percent were experts who were interviewed by the journalists, and 32 percent were in the “other” category.

Greater detail was given about the 36 percent of harassment incidents that were committed by government and non-government officials. It explained what happened after women journalists reported the incidents to their line managers at work.

The report said that of the 45 percent of women journalists who reported their experiences to their bosses, 42 percent were enrolled in work-place safety courses, 42 percent of the complaints were ignored entirely, in 3 percent of the cases the managing editor blamed the women reporters, and no clear actions were taken in 13 percent of the cases.

According to the data, while 32 percent of women reporters knew the work-place safety regulations, 11 percent were familiar with the rules, and 57 percent knew nothing about the guidelines and the law.

Most media outlets urge their female reporters to familiarize themselves with workplace safety measures, protect their personal space, reveal the name of the perpetrator of the act, and know the law.

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Current laws in the Western countries, particularly after the #MeToo Movement, have redefined the terms of sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.

Sexual abuse is mainly used to describe behavior toward children, not adults. It can include inappropriate touching of a victim sexually, or forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator sexually, or making a victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity.

Rape is penetration of the vagina or anus or oral sex without the consent of the victim. In the West, the law is gender-neutral on this issue, meaning that anyone can be a victim.

Sexual assault can describe a range of criminal acts that are sexual, from unwanted touching and kissing to rubbing, groping, or forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in sexual ways. Sexual assault overlaps with rape because the term includes rape.

Sexual harassment is a much broader term than sexual assault, encompassing three categories of impermissible behavior, namely sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention, which includes unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, kissing, relentless pressure for dates, or sexual behavior.

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]


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