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16 Days of Activism with UN Women: Protected Characteristics

Over 48% of Musicians’ Union members surveyed have experienced sexual harassment at work. Shockingly, a third of those people say their harassment was related to a protected characteristic, and another 21% said they were not sure.

Published: 03 December 2019 | 12:00 AM Updated: 12 July 2021 | 5:32 PM
Graphic from UN Women reading
The MU is proud to take part in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence spearheaded by UN Women.

But what exactly does that mean and what can we as a community of musicians do about it?

Protected characteristics

Protected characteristics are defined by the Equality Act 2010 as age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

So 34% of musicians who have experienced sexual harassment have experienced it alongside behaviours related to racism, homophobia, or another form of discrimination. And 21% are not sure.

For example, a trans woman may be sexually harassed and experience transphobic behaviour from the perpetrator, or a Black woman may experience sexual harassment and racist behaviour.

Preventing sexual harassment at work, protecting freelancers too

Right now, employed people and some freelancers are protected from sexual harassment at work. But not all freelancers are covered. Musicians, for example, could fall through a gap in the law which means most do not have the same protections or access to workplace justice as employed people.

We want to change that. That’s why we're calling for stronger laws to protect freelancers too.

Over 2000 people have signed the petition calling for change – sign the petition to add your voice to the call.

An intersectional approach

Changing the law is a vital first step. But for the law to reflect musicians’ lived experiences, there is one more thing the Government needs to do.

As well as making sure that future laws to protect people from sexual harassment explicitly include all freelancers, Government must also make sure that those laws accurately reflect how people experience sexual harassment and violence at work.

Going back to the example above, if you’re a trans woman and you experience sexual harassment and transphobia at work at the same time, the law separates them into two things. So if you do have access to workplace justice, you can go to an employment tribunal for the sexual harassment or the transphobia – but not both combined.

This denies working people justice and allows perpetrators to get away with illegal and discriminatory behaviour scot free.

This is not good enough. The law must be intersectional, and the MU is pushing Government for change.

Take action now

Remember, no-one should experience or fear sexual harassment, abuse, bullying or discrimination on campus or at work. If you have, whatever your role in the music industry, you can report it in confidence to MU Safe Space.

The MU is proud to take part in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence spearheaded by UN Women. Follow on the MU on Twitter and Instagram to get involved, or sign up as an MU Supporter for free for the latest campaigns news.

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