Almost half of female legal professionals in South Africa say they have been sexually harassed – and 73% have been bullied
- The International Bar Associations has released the results of a first-of-its-kind survey of the legal profession around the world – and it has some grim findings about bullying and sexual harassment in the legal fraternity.
- South Africa rates among the worst in the world: bullying is common, sexual harassment affects nearly half of all women, and the problem is ongoing.
- Respondents in SA have little faith that their law firms are getting to grips with bullying and harassment in the workplace.
- For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.
"Bullying is common in South African legal workplaces," a new report says, with nearly three-quarters of female respondents and 42% of males saying they have been bullied – many in the last year.
Sexual harassment too is common among lawyers and advocates, with 43% of women and 12% of men saying they have been the target of such harassment, putting South Africa well above the global average.
And South African legal practitioners have little faith that their law firms and other workplaces are getting to grips with bullying and sexual harassment.
"After requesting that a sexual harassment policy be implemented, I experienced a huge backlash. There was an immediate increase in sexist comments, jokes and derogatory comments personally directed at me," the report quotes an anonymous female advocate from South Africa as saying.
Another advocate described not a glass ceiling but a "solid wall" in the legal profession in South Africa.
While South Africa ranks among the worst in the world, it is not alone; workplace bullying and harassment in the legal profession is endemic, the International Bar Association (IBA) says in its report on the survey, "Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession" released on Wednesday.
Globally approximately one in two female respondents, and one in three male respondents, said they had been bullied in some fashion connected to their work in the legal profession. One in three females, and one in 14 males, said they had been sexually harassed in the workplace.
While this was not unexpected, such issues are particularly troubling in the legal profession, the IBA says. The need for legal practitioners to be of good character is as old as the legal profession itself, writes the organisation's president Horacio Bernardes Neto in a foreword.
"If the law is to remain in proper standing with the global community, its practitioners must be of good character."
According to the IBA the survey underlying its report is the largest every of bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession, and represents the first time those intertwined issues have been quantified at a global level.
The report covers eight countries other than South Africa: Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Here is how they stacked up in terms of bullying...
and when it comes to sexual harassment:
Countries with more than 100 respondents to the survey were considered viable to make robust country-level findings. In South Africa the survey drew 126 respondents – compared to 937 in Australia and 715 in the UK, where organisations such as bar associations promoted the data-gathering exercise.
Only 42% of South African respondents said they had confidence in those responsible for handling their complaints, and only 7% of legal professionals had undergone relevant training.
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