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Sexual Harassment

The University of Basel does not tolerate sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment Awareness Day: March 23

As part of the Sexual Harassment Awareness Day, the topic of sexual violence in higher education was addressed throughout Switzerland on March 23. The University of Basel participated in this important national campaign day.

The next Sexual Harassment Awareness Day will take place on April 25, 2024.

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What is Sexual Harassment?

  • Definition

    "Sexual harassment refers to behavior with sexual connotations that violates the personal rights of another person, in particular:

    • sexual acts and conduct subject to criminal prosecution;

    • unwanted sexual advances, irrespective of whether these are accompanied by promises of advantages or threats of disadvantages;

    • unwanted bodily contact, requests for sexual acts and instrusive behavior;

    • salacious comments, especially about a person's appearance and physical attributes;

    • the intentional or unintentional display and distribution of pornographic material against the will of the recipient." (Regulation on personal integrity)

    Sexual harassment is prohibited under the Gender Equality Act and the regulations on protection of personal integrity at the University of Basel. Of course serious offences such as physical assault, coercion or rape are also relevant under criminal law.

  • What can I do if I am being harassed?

    Have the courage to say no if you feel that you are being sexually harassed. Whether it’s to your supervisor, lecturer, colleague or fellow student, it's your right to say no. This is about respecting your personal boundaries and your protection in the workplace and during your studies. There are various ways to defend yourself against unwanted behavior. In our Wen Do classes, you can learn strategies to effectively set your boundaries and fight back.

    • React immediately
      Let the person or people know immediately and unequivocally that their behavior is unwelcome. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to react. If you feel they are not taking you seriously, inform them that you will get in touch with the relevant contacts at the university.
    • React afterwards
      If you would prefer not to confront the person directly, write to them. Explain in writing what is bothering you and ask them to stop their inappropriate behavior.
    • Document the incidents
      It is difficult to prove sexual harassment has taken place. Often it is your word against theirs, so it’s a good idea to make a note of what has happened. Include the names of the person/people harassing you, the date, time, place and type of harassment, what actions you took, as well as any witnesses. Save any sexually inappropriate emails or text messages.
    • Talk to others
      Share your concerns with people you trust, and talk to those around you. Maybe you aren’t the only person being harassed and you can take action together.
    • Take advantage of support services
      Consult with the relevant people at the University of Basel. They will address your concerns confidentially and provide support throughout subsequent steps and discussions.
  • What can I do if I notice that one of my colleagues is being sexually harassed?

    As a witness, you can save the victim a lot of pain and suffering. Don’t look away - have the courage to take action; the university relies on staff and students who help to make sure people treat each other with respect.

    • While harassment is happening
      Don’t laugh along at typically sexist remarks; stand up for the respectful treatment of others. Make the harassing person aware that their behavior has crossed the line and is inappropriate.
    • Show support for those affected
      If you feel that someone is being sexually harassed, talk to them about it. Inform them about the relevant contact people at the university, and if necessary, offer support. This could be in the form of accompanying them to meetings with their supervisors.
    • Options within a team or larger context
      Inform your supervisors or lecturers about uncomfortable situations. Do not, however, take any further action on your own without the agreement of the person who you feel is experiencing harassment.
  • What can I do if I am a lecturer or supervisor and would like to actively prevent sexual harassment?

    As someone in a leadership role, you represent your employer, the University of Basel, and are - in accordance with the Gender Equality Act - obligated to ensure a work and study environment free of harassment. Taking preventive measures and fostering a culture of open and respectful interaction are the most effective ways to ensure a harassment-free climate.

    • Set an example
      Demonstrate best practices when it comes to respectful interactions with your team or seminar participants. Discuss the issue of harassment and actively take a stand: Stress that while open and tolerant interaction prevails at the University of Basel, there is absolutely no tolerance for harassment of any kind. Make people aware of the relevant contacts points, or let people know you are available for confidential conversations.
    • Raise awareness, provide information, foster team building
      Raise awareness about the issue and related services by making this brochure available in your area, and by linking to the corresponding pages on the university website. Get in touch with the relevant contact people if you would like to receive further information regarding sexual harassment, and inquire about specific training sessions or workshops.
  • What can I do if I am a lecturer or supervisor and am confronted with instances of sexual harassment?

    As someone in a leadership role, you will have to strike a fine balance between your duty to protect the victim and ensuring that the accused person is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. In addition, direct supervisors often find out about concrete cases of harassment quite late, yet are still required to act quickly.

    • Appropriate behavior
      Immediately put a stop to any obvious sexual harassment in your working environment. Take any reports of harassment seriously. Immediately find out more about the situation. You must initially remain absolutely neutral.
    • Seek out support
      Take advantage of the University of Basel’s confidential support services. Don’t hesitate to get the relevant persons on board if you notice there is a problem and you would like more information about your responsibilities, options and scope of action.
  • What can I do if I have the feeling I have crossed the line myself?

    Have you been confronted and told that you have not respected another's boundaries? Are you not entirely sure if your conduct has been appropriate? Sexual harassment has serious consequences for everyone involved. Actively seek to change your behavior, and take advantage of the available support services. Reflecting briefly on your own actions and their effect is worthwhile in every case.

    • Reflect on your own behavior
      If you are not sure whether your behavior might be interpreted as harassment, ask yourself whether you would like to see yourself or someone close to you in a similar situation. Share your concerns with people you trust.
    • Treatment of others
      If you are not sure whether you have accidentally crossed a line in your interaction with another person, talk to them about it. If the person does feel they have been harassed, apologize for your behavior.
    • Seek support
      Find the courage to reflect on your behavior and deal with the issue. The relevant contacts at the University of Basel will handle your concerns confidentially, and can direct you to the appropriate support services.
    • Victim’s rights
      Accept that the victim has a right to defend themselves. Do not pressure them.

In cases of sexual harassment an independent investigator carries out an investigation procedure to clarify and establish the relevant legal facts. She concludes the investigation with a report for the attention of the Rectorate, which contains a description of the facts, the investigative actions and the results of the investigation.

The independent investigator is Yvonne Pieles, burckhardt AG.


Are you in need of advice and support?
Contact Dr. Cora Wagner, Personal Integrity Coordinator.

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