Preventing sexual harassment in the office: from policy to practice

LWF Communion Office staff participate in a workshop on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. The workshop followed the 2017 Assembly commitment to focus work on eliminating sexual and gender based violence. Photo: LWF/S. Gallay

Commitment to make workplaces safe for all

(LWI) - The LWF continues its work to ensure a safe workplace that extends beyond policy to practice.

On this International Women’s Day (IWD), the LWF Communion Office hosted a workshop on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. All staff took part in the workshop, which followed the 2017 Assembly commitment to focus work on eliminating sexual and gender based violence.

"The LWF's longstanding commitment to fight Gender Based Violence, always has to be supported by concrete actions, procedures, and policies. Encouraged by the resolutions of the LWF Assembly in Windhoek last year, we are dedicating International Women’s Day to this,” said LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr. Martin Junge. “We organized a compulsory workshop to raise awareness and continue promoting a safe working environment that is free from violence, in which men and women can flourish." The workshop was based on the LWF Code of Conduct, which all staff sign when they are hired.

Telling stories and breaking the silence

The recent LWF Assembly, held in Windhoek, Namibia,last May, directed the Communion Office, and encouraged member churches, to focus on sex education and the elimination of sexual and gender-based violence, including domestic violence, rape, sexual coercion and sexual harassment within churches.

“This focus is to be ethically and theologically comprehensive in cooperation with civil society. These efforts should include collecting the testimony of those who have survived violence, so that their story is told and the silence is broken,” the Assembly resolution reads.

The LWF General Secretary added that "we will soon be sending out a letter to member churches, encouraging them to act on the Assembly resolution in their own context.” This will be done by offering the LWF Code of Conduct as a resource to be used and applied locally. “Gender justice is a matter of life and death for tens of thousands of women worldwide, because of gender based violence. For that reason, it is a matter for the churches to engage with".

Long term commitment

LWF has had a long term commitment to gender justice and continues refining its tools to counter sexual harassment. The LWF is committed to empowering women for leadership and for the ordained ministry, as has been reiterated at six consecutive Assemblies of the LWF since 1984.

This year, the LWF gender justice policy marks its fifth year. It has been translated into 23 languages and lays out a biblically-rooted framework for the Lutheran communion to take concrete steps to implement gender justice.

In 2002, the LWF issued an action plan, encouraging member churches to face the issue of violence against women. Churches Say “No” to Violence Against Women offered theological reflections and suggestions of ways to accompany churches in addressing this critical issue.