Senators, the Social Sector, Sexual Harassment and Crowdfunding
Monday, 16th July 2018 at 12:31 pm
Sarah Hanson-Young is leading the crowdfunding race in her battle with fellow Senator David Leyonhjelm as financial supporters take sides in a rising debate likened to a #metoo moment for workplace sexual harassment in Australia.
At the same time, the battle’s publicity has highlighted the work of two social sector players central to the debate who deal with women’s rights and workplace sexual harassment, and who spoke to Pro Bono News.
The Greens Senator signalled last week she would sue her Liberal Democratic Party counterpart over comments he made on television and radio about her sex life.
She alleged he told her to “stop shagging men” during a parliamentary debate about violence against women.
When Senator Leyonhjelm refused to withdraw those comments and went further in his criticisms of Senator Hanson-Young in media interviews, she accused him of “slut-shaming” and announced she was considering her legal options.
Leyonhjelm was in the meantime not backing down from his comments, denying any wrongdoing or that his remarks were sexist.
Pro Bono News was in no way suggesting Senator Leyonhjelm has defamed Senator Hanson-Young, and he has been contacted for comment for this story.
Interesting: "Crowdfunding Sarah Hanson-Young's defamation action is seriously stupid" https://t.co/R0n0VbMWjO
— David Leyonhjelm (@DavidLeyonhjelm) July 11, 2018
While a claim remained to be filed, the cost of any such action was being weighed in terms of time, money, and Hanson-Young giving evidence and being cross-examined.
The Senator though appeared resolved, telling Women’s Agenda: “This is not just my fight. It’s a fight for women across Australia”.
At the same time a contest over the issue between Hanson-Young and Leyonhjelm had emerged on GoFundMe.
At the last count Hanson-Young’s campaign had attracted $58,000 with $23,000 for Leyonhjelm.
The Hanson-Young campaign said any net compensation awarded would be donated to two women’s charities, the Working Women’s Centre South Australia and Plan International.
The centre’s director Sandra Dann said her organisation’s core business was to assist women who were not members of a trade union with workplace issues, commonly sexual harassment.
“We support her decision to take legal action from a workplace point of view,” Dann told Pro Bono News.
“It signals to many other women, who don’t have the means and the capacity to have their matters properly resolved, or indeed to be known in the public domain.
“It signals to them, that like the #metoo campaign, women are fed up.
“They’ve had enough of experiencing language that is vilifying or humiliating or denigrating in their workplace. They just want to be able to go to work and do their jobs.”
The other potential beneficiary of any possible legal action, if Hanson-Young was successful, was Plan International.
It described itself as a global independent development and humanitarian organisation tackling root causes of the injustices facing girls and the most marginalised children.
Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said sexism and harassment was holding girls back from realising their potential.
“We support Ms Hanson-Young in her endeavour to set an important precedent that we hope will ultimately banish abusive behaviour from our Senate,” she told Pro Bono News.
“This is not because of her political affiliation, but because she is a young woman in the
Parliament who has a right to a safe workplace and deserves to be treated with respect by her colleagues.”
Plan International Australia last year surveyed more than 2,000 Australian girls and young women on the subject of leadership, and just two per cent of girls aged 10-14 listed politics as a potential career option, rising to five per cent for girls 15-17. And then as girls hit adulthood, that figure dropped to zero per cent.
Legena said in an opinion piece published on the weekend that what Senator Leyonhjelm said to Senator Hanson-Young was not anything new.
“It’s just one more insult to throw on the pile of personal barbs hurled at capable young women in an attempt to embarrass them out of places of power,” she told Ten Daily.
READ: our CEO @susannelegena explains why girls and young women are reluctant to enter politics and how one defamation case just might be the catalyst to win them back. Via @tendailyau https://t.co/DWRZ85bHmL
— Plan Australia (@PlanAustralia) July 14, 2018