Iceland women politicians go public on harassment

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

Image source, RUV
Image caption,
Iceland's parliament is in the firing line

Iceland has been shocked by allegations of sexual harassment made by a group of more than 600 female politicians, in a country of only 332,500 people that has long prided itself on its reputation for promoting women's rights.

Spurred by last month's general election, which was triggered in part by a scandal over violence against women, Reykjavik city councillor Heida Bjorg Hilmisdottir set up the I Skugga Valdsins (In the Shadow of Power) closed Facebook group to share these allegations. Now the group has made 136 of these accounts public, Morgunbladid newspaper reports.

The media statement accompanying the publication was hashtagged #MeToo, in solidarity with the high-profile international campaign against sexual abuse of women by men in positions of power.

"We hope that there will be an open discussion by political parties on how we can improve the culture within them," said Ms Heida, who is also vice-president of the Social Democrat Alliance.

The published accounts are often graphic, and include one member of parliament accusing male MPs of deliberating leering at their female peers in order to "humiliate and unnerve them", the RUV public broadcasters reports.

Many male politicians have been in touch to express their disquiet at the extent of the problem, said Ms Heida, and women outside politics have also contacted the Facebook group with their own stories. The row has prompted public demands for the alleged perpetrators to be unmasked.

"This culture of sexual harassment is by no means limited to politics. People now realise this is a larger problem than they realised," Heida Bjorg Hilmisdottir told Morgunbladid.

Reporting by Alistair Coleman and Martin Morgan

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