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Debate on sexual harassment

October 21st, 2017

Commenting on the sexual harassment cases in the US and Hungary, commentators from right across the political spectrum agree that widespread violent abuse should get more attention. They, however, do not agree how to handle cases of non-violent misconduct.

In 168 Óra, Dóra Ónody-Molnár comments on the scandal around Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and speculates that sexual harassment is a common, but unreported phenomenon in Hungary. Although a couple of Hungarian actresses have reported similar abuses, most women are unwilling to talk about such insults, the left-liberal pundit suspects. Ónody-Molnár finds it sad that in Hungary, only sexual assault that involves physical violence is considered a crime. In her view, non-violent sexual misconduct by male bosses and superiors should also be considered as harassment, in order to protect women. Ónody-Molnár suggests that sex offered in exchange for professional promotion or employment is not any less consensual than rape.

Népszava’s Judit Kósa also believes that sexual abuse is widespread in Hungary. The left-wing commentator too blames all this on male chauvinist social structures and ideologies. Sexual harassment can only be uprooted if society overcomes male chauvinism, Kósa concludes.

Writing in Magyar Hírlap, Zoltán Veczán underscores that both violent sexual assault and non-violent forms of harassment are unacceptable. The conservative commentator also finds it striking that according to surveys, while as many as 400,000 women have been victims, very few cases of sexual harassment are reported. While he agrees that sexual offenders should be punished, Veczán cautions against ‘mob mentality’ and hysteria. Veczán points out that one should clearly distinguish morally abhorrent non-violent sexual misconduct in which women exchange sex for employment related benefits, from cases of violent assaults. Veczán finds highly problematic the claim that sexist slurs or even looks should be considered as if they amounted to sexual violence. Unless we make this distinction, victims of violent abuse will not be taken seriously enough, we cannot give the proper attention to violent abuse, Veczán concludes.

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