Today, the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and the ATLAS network launched an awareness-raising Twitter campaign to highlight the scale of workplace misconduct (including sexual harassment, bullying, abuse of authority, corruption, racism, ableism, homophobia, sexual assault, and other forms of violence) in international justice institutions, as well as the roadblocks to reporting mistreatment. While chronic underreporting has been misconstrued to minimise and underestimate the extent of the problem of workplace misconduct, the reality is that barriers to reporting are immense.
The International Bar Association’s groundbreaking report, ‘#UsToo? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession‘, “identifies chronic underreporting of incidents, with 57% of bullying cases and 75% of sexual harassment cases not reported, for reasons including the profile of the perpetrator and the target’s fear of repercussions. Even when targets report such incidents, workplaces are failing them – official responses are considered insufficient or negligible, perpetrators are rarely sanctioned and, in many cases, the situation is exacerbated.”
With so few people reporting, it is impossible to understand the extent of the problem, address it, and hold offenders accountable. Awareness-raising about the scale of underreporting is a first step to addressing workplace misconduct in all its forms. We reached out to the ATLAS network of over 8,000 female lawyers working in international public law and asked why so many of them did not report their mistreatment. They shared their appalling experiences and the systemic barriers they faced to reporting, including retaliation, fear, stigma, and lack of reporting mechanisms. We will post daily Tweets from 11-22 January 2021 with their testimonials.
We call on the leadership of international justice institutions, as well as the legal profession as a whole, to assess harmful workplace cultures and to develop tailor-made measures to address chronic underreporting and systemic workplace misconduct, in order to promote a safe and supportive working environment for all.