Since news broke earlier this month that Harvey Weinstein had allegedly been sexual harassing women for decades, the story has snowballed. Across the country, women have broken their silence about the unchecked and inappropriate behavior of powerful men, be it in the media, the entertainment industry, or state legislatures. Now, new revelations show that the endemic is not confined to the United States.
On Sunday, the British political blog Guido Fawkes published a dossier that accused 36 current Members of Parliament for the Conservative Party of inappropriate sexual behavior towards women. The list, which accounts for just over 10 percent of the Conservative Party MPs, included two Cabinet ministers and another 18 serving ministers. One member of the list was accused of being “perpetually intoxicated and very inappropriate with women” while another was described as being “handsy in taxis.”
The allegations come days after female staff members at Westminster revealed a secret WhatsApp group in which they had shared warnings and horror stories about “sex pest” MPs.
The same day that Guido’s dossier was exposed, the Mail on Sunday revealed that British International Trade Minister Mark Garnier had allegedly used his female personal assistant to buy sex toys and had allegedly referred to her as “sugar tits.” On Monday, a female staffer also claimed that she had been sexually assaulted four times while working for an unnamed MP, but authorities in Parliament had allegedly done nothing to change the situation.
“[The staffer] is deeply disappointed and distrustful and she tells me that the distrust is endemic,” Liz Saville Roberts MP said during a House of Commons debate. “How can I assure her that her complaint will now be treated differently?”
Chi Onuwarh, Labour MP for Newcastle, claimed she had reported an environment of sexual harassment to Parliamentary authorities, but that the allegations had not been taken seriously. “I complained recently to an officer of Parliament…that I knew a number of researchers, male and female, who had been made to feel deeply uncomfortable in the Sports and Social club here, by Members of Parliament,” she said. “I was told this happens in pubs all over the country.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has called for an inquiry into sexual harassment within Parliament, and it seems increasingly likely that her International Trade Minister will step down from his Cabinet post following the scandal. Andrew Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, has pledged that the rampant harassment will not go unpunished.
Similar claims also surfaced in the French Parliament last week, with several female assistants claiming that they had warned one another about certain MPs they regarded as sexual predators.
“There was a blacklist of guys with whom you couldn’t take risks,” ex-assistant Marine Tondelier said. “It was informal advice exchanged in the canteen, in coffee breaks and in the evening.” Tondelier claimed that certain MPs were “drunk with power.”
The French Parliament is no stranger to sexual harassment allegations: last year, the deputy speaker of the assembly resigned after four female colleagues accused him of sexual harassment.