Could sexual harassment occur in workplaces where there are ultra-Orthodox men and women just because of cultural differences and communications problems?
The Trade, Industry and Labor Ministry started a radio advertising campaign last week, calling on men and women to complain about sexual harassment in the workplace. The campaign is based on the 1998 law to prevent sexual harassment on the job, and is one of the 19 labor laws that the ministry enforces.
When the Government Advertising Bureau asked the ultra-Orthodox radio station, Radio Kol Hai, to run the ads, it realized there was a problem. It seems that the station, which caters almost exclusively to the devout ultra-Orthodox population, does not use the word 'sexual.'
It also does not broadcast terms such as 'rape' or 'breast cancer,' so as not to offend its ultra-Orthodox listeners.
When the station covered the scandal concerning former president Moshe Katsav, the broadcasters chose not to use the word rape, but instead said he was suspected of 'acts of moral turpitude.' Rape? Never.
Breast cancer and ovarian cancer are referred to only as 'women?s Cancer.'The station caters to the entire family, and does not want to embarrass parents by making their children ask: 'Mother, what is sexual harassment?' Therefore, the radio station suggested to the Labor Ministry that it prepare separate ads that refer to the law as ?The Law to Prevent Harassment.'
The ministry looked into the matter and concluded that this could not be done. After all, the law's full and proper name is 'The Law for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment,' and how could its name be changed?Doing so could also be confusing. Since when is just plain harassment illegal? Is there anyone in the country who does not harass, annoy or bother people sometime?
For now the two sides are refusing to budge, and the ultra-Orthodox community is not being made aware of the this important campaign.It may be easy to make fun of the use of euphemism and code words, as well as the ultra-Orthodox community?s tendency to hide their heads in the sand.
One also may claim that anyone not willing to say the words rape or sexual harassment should not be surprised when those things actually occur in his or her closed-off world, and in even bigger ways.Non-religious coercion
We can use the excuse that the non-religious also are forced to answer difficult questions posed by their children, and therefore we should ignore the feelings of the ultra-Orthodox. You don't need to be ultra-religious to be embarrassed by the questions of children who are constantly exposed to violent and sexual messages.
But in this case, we can give the ultra-Orthodox a break. It would not be a great tragedy if the Labor Ministry were to show a bit of sensitivity and allow Radio Kol Hai to make do with just the term harassment.The ultra-Orthodox world has its own codes, so even when the full term is not used explicitly, those who need to know, understand.
In the end, the goal is to increase awareness and reduce the amount of sexual harassment. If so we have to skirt around the wording in order to do so, it is still kosher. Preventing sexual harassment is more important than educating the ultra-Orthodox sector by force.
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