October 26, 2017 / 3:43 PM / a year ago

UK Labour Party women urged to speak out about sexual harassment

LONDON, Oct 26 (Reuters) - A group of women members of Britain’s opposition Labour Party have set up a website calling on fellow members who have experienced sexual harassment within party ranks to tell their stories anonymously to try and improve Labour’s culture.

The initiative comes after dozens of allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein inspired hundreds of thousands of women around the world to share their own experiences on social media under the hashtag #MeToo.

The new website, LabourToo, aims to gather information about what may have been going on behind the scenes to encourage the party to reinforce its policies on sexual harassment and change its cultural norms.

“It isn’t about naming and shaming, it’s about putting pressure on a party that has a strong public stance on gender equality to apply those principles to the way it runs itself,” wrote one of the founders in an article on the Guardian website.

Writing anonymously, the author, an elected local councillor, said she had personally experienced sexual assault by a fellow party member who held a position of responsibility.

“When I reported this, I expected to find support from my party. Instead, I had to ... face the direct suggestion that I might not want to pursue my complaint if I wanted a future in Labour,” she wrote.

The author said the person who assaulted her was removed from their position, but those who had covered up the incident remained in post and she was still being harassed as a result of having reported what had happened.

“My complaint was swept under the carpet, and the perpetrators continue to play a part in my everyday life within the party,” she wrote.

Several prominent female Labour members of parliament, including former acting party leader Harriet Harman, have voiced support for the new initiative on Twitter.

“All Parties need whistleblower system. LabourToo,” wrote Harman.

Fellow Labour lawmaker Stella Creasy tweeted her support for the writer of the Guardian article.

“This powerful testimony is why we have to put our own house in order to be party of equality,” she wrote.

A party spokeswoman said Labour took all complaints of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination extremely seriously.

“We ask that anyone with a complaint comes forward so that allegations can be properly investigated. When evidence of misconduct comes to light, all appropriate disciplinary action is taken in line with the party’s rule book and procedures,” she said. (Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)

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