In response to numerous requests from our readers, on the 8th and 25th of each month we will publish articles from this series.

What Omerta 2 relates does not refer to an isolated case, but rather to a structure which, allowing harassment, destroys the victims and the few people who dare to protect them. In this article we detail how the first research on sexual harassment in Spanish Universities led Parliament to legislate the obligation to address gender-based violence in Universities. For this purpose, it was necessary to overcome the resistance of the very Universities and the persecution that, from within, was promoted against those of us who were carrying out the research (which will be the reason for subsequent articles in this series).

After applying a survey to 1,083 students from six Spanish Universities, this first research shows that 62% of the students are aware or have suffered situations of gender violence at their Universities. There is also a difficulty in identifying cases and reporting them. 91% of aggressions in Spanish Universities are not reported. 92% of the students were unaware of the availability of a service set for them should they wanted to explain what had happened and 85% of the students were strongly demanding it.

The political impact of this research was embodied at legislative stage in two Laws of 2007 that rectify the error of the 2004 Law, Organic Law 1/2004, of December 28th, on Integral Protection Measures against Gender Violence (GV), which does not include Universities as spaces where GV occurs. In view of this serious error, we raised our voices and presented evidence to different members of the Congress and the Senate, from various political parties. They soon recognized the error -that they attribute to their advisors- and they set to fix it in a future Law. Before this situation, at the end of October 2004 we convened a conference at the Barcelona Scientific Park, where we publicly spoke about this issue and a Member of Parliament specifically, committed to ensure that these regrettable situations at Universities will be included in a future Law.

2007 – Organic Law 3/2007, March 22nd, for the Effective Equality of Women and Men.  Article 25 specifically speaks of equality in the field of higher education. It covers two items. 1) In the field of higher education, public Administrations, in the exercise of their respective duties, shall encourage teaching and research on the meaning and scope of equality between women and men. 2) Particularly, and to this end, public Administrations shall promote: a) Incorporation, in appropriate curricula, of teaching on equality between women and men. b) Creation of specific postgraduate courses. c) Undertaking specialised studies and research in this field. 2007 – Organic Law 4/2007, of April 12th, on Universities. The “Twelfth Additional Provision on Equality Units” is introduced here. “Universities shall have, among their organisational structures, equality units for the development of functions linked to the principle of equality between women and men”.

In this sense, as from 2007, Spanish Universities enjoy equality units with protocols to deal with the reality of sexual harassment in their environments. These equality units represent an important, although not decisive, step in the fight against sexual harassment in academic institutions. A reality that we will explain in future articles in the Omerta series.

* This article is part of Omerta in the University, a series of publications that address the fierce law of silence generated in some Universities concerning sexual harassment. 

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