Discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and degrading treatment (victimisation)
Örebro University is to be a modern and attractive place of work and study, where students and staff have a good working environment. Our activities should be inspiring, safe, developing and tolerant, and completely free from discrimination, all forms of harassment and degrading treatment.
- How discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation might be expressed.
- What you can do if you or someone else is a victim.
- What responsibility does the university have?
- How to make a complaint.
- The consequences of subjecting a person to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation.
Discrimination is when a person is disadvantaged or treated less favourably than someone else in a comparable situation, and it has a connection to one of the seven grounds of discrimination:
- Transgender identity or expression
- Religion or other belief
- Sexual orientation
The Discrimination Act is intended to counteract discrimination and promote equal rights and opportunities with respect to the discrimination grounds.
To be deemed as discrimination, the unfair or unfavourable treatment must take place within a social domain that is protected in the Discrimination Act and where there is a power relationship between individuals and society. Education is such a protected domain in the Discrimination Act.
This protection also covers situations between students. It is the responsibility of the education provider, Örebro University, to ensure that the discrimination or harassment ceases. As a student, you have a strong protection against discrimination.
Note that the protection does not apply in the private sphere, for example, if you are victimised by a neighbour or a friend. Instead, such violations of your dignity are a matter for the police.
What is harassment?
Harassment is a form of discrimination. Harassment is an action, behaviour or treatment that violates a person’s dignity and which is associated to one or more of the grounds of discrimination.
It may involve ridicule or humiliation, such as derogatory comments on appearance, dress or behaviour. It also includes generalisations about someone’s characteristics, ostracism, gestures, pictures or sabotaging a student’s ability to complete their training. Harassment may be directed towards an individual or a group.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is an unwanted behaviour or behaviour of sexual nature that violates someone’s dignity. Sexual harassment differs from harassment in general in that the person who is subjected need not be protected by any of the seven grounds of discrimination for it to be considered sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment may be:
- Physical – such as hugs, touching or other unwelcome physical approaches.
- Verbal – such as jokes, comments, suggestions or jargon.
- Non-verbal – such as sexual looks, gestures, notes, SMS or images.
For students, incidents that occur outside of their studies here, but are linked to them, are also covered. This includes incidents at parties, placements, study visits or other activities, which the university organises and for which it is responsible.
Sexual harassment falls under the Discrimination Act, but may also be a criminal offence according to the Swedish Penal Code. It should therefore also be reported to the police as a sexual assault.
For actions to be regarded as sexual harassment, they must be unwelcome. It is essential from a legal perspective that the victim makes it clear to the perpetrator that the behaviour is not wanted. This can be done in various ways, such as verbally, by e-mail or text message.
The fact that the victim must clarify to the perpetrator that the actions are unwelcome does not apply if the offensive nature of the behaviour may be so obvious that no comment is required from the victim, for example, obvious sexual touching or being subjected to sexual name-calling.
Sometimes it can be difficult to speak out and be listened to. Those who speak out can meet adverse reactions such as:
- Denial - saying it was a misunderstanding or was not meant to be that way
- Downplay – to say that the person is sensitive or that it was just a joke.
- Use of counter-attacks with guilt – to say “Well then, I'm a sexist now?”
It is always the victim who determines whether an action is sexual harassment or not. Saying “it was just a joke” is not a valid defence, because intention does not matter in the context, it is how it is received that is central.
When a person is subjected to sexual harassment, there are a variety of emotions that may arise. Typical feelings are guilt, shame, unwillingness to go to work or school, lack of motivation, insecurity in the group, uncertainty in self-esteem and indifference. What one feels, however, varies from person to person and may depend on the situation, there is no right or wrong when it comes to feelings or reactions.
Prohibition of reprisals
A student who reports or reports discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or who participates in an investigation on such acts, must never be subjected to reprisals. Reprisals are acts that cause harm or discomfort, or which are to the detriment of victims. This may include:
- Grade reduction
- Harassment in teaching situations
- Threat of violence
- Other unfavourable treatment
Degrading treatment or victimisation
Degrading treatment, also called victimisation, is reprehensible or negative actions directed at one or more students, and which may lead to them being excluded from the group.
Such actions do not have to be linked to any of the seven grounds of discrimination for them to be considered victimisation. A comment or action that may seem innocent, such as a joke, may become victimisation if repeated. Sometimes a single occasion can suffice if the behaviour is severe. Victimisation is often referred to simply as bullying and can lead to lower self-esteem, poor mental health and difficulties in handling work.
Examples of victimisation are:
- Not greeting or otherwise freezing someone out
- Calling someone for an offensive name
- Unfairly accusing someone of something
- Offending someone in front of others
- Withholding information, as a systematic method of excluding someone due to discriminatory grounds
Protection of students regarding victimisation is found in the Work Environment Act. There are also provisions to be found in the Swedish Work Environment Authority's regulations.
What can you do if you are subjected to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or victimisation?
- Stop! – Clearly say to the person who is offending you that the behaviour is discriminatory, unwanted or offensive and that you want it to stop. This is especially important when you are subjected to sexual harassment. You may also ask someone you trust to talk to the person who is offending you.
- Take note – Make a note of the situation. Record the time and place, what has happened and how you experienced it. Save text messages, notes, e-mail etc.
- Tell someone – Talk to someone about what has happened and seek support. It can be the student and doctoral student representative at Örebro Student Union, a teacher or study advisor, university legal officer or staff linked to your course or programme.
- Report it – If the discrimination, harassment or victimisation does not cease, you should make a complaint to Örebro University. Your complaint will then come in as an official document to the university and the legal department will open an investigation. You can make your complaint by contacting the legal department at Örebro University directly or by sending them an e-mail, or by sending an e-mail to the Records Office. When your complaint is received, it becomes an official document. When a request to release an official document is received, a confidentiality assessment is always performed. If you are uncertain about making a complaint, then the student and doctoral student representative at Örebro Student Union or the university’s legal officers can guide you.
What can you do if you are a witness to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or victimisation?
You can give your support by confirming that something is wrong either by saying so if and when it happens or by asking the victim afterwards if you can help in some way. Also inform a member of staff at Örebro University, such as a legal officer or someone at the school.
The vice-chancellor at Örebro University has the overall responsibility for both the study and the work environment. Responsibility for the practical work on these matters has since been delegated to heads of schools and units, such as deans and unit managers.
Örebro University is obliged to investigate without delay if a student feels that they have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or victimisation. An investigation must also be started if Örebro University receives knowledge that something has happened, such as if a rumour is spread, if an employee receives knowledge about incidents or if a complaint is received. All employees have a formal obligation to act.
Örebro University must investigate what has happened and take the measures necessary to stop similar incidents from happening in the future. The investigation is handled by the legal officers at Örebro University.
During the investigation, disciplinary measures may be taken by the university to protect the victim, for example, by suspending a student or employee suspected of sexual harassment. If there are reasons to believe that a crime may have taken place, it must be reported to the police.
Consequences for anyone who subjects someone to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or victimisation.
If an investigation shows that discrimination, harassment or sexual harassment has occurred, Örebro University has a responsibility to ensure that these actions cease immediately.
If an employee has subjected a student to such actions, then they risk a warning, being transferred, or being dismissed.
If a student has subjected another student at Örebro University to such action, then they are at risk of being suspended from studies. This type of case is handled by the Disciplinary Committee.
Complaints of discrimination or victimisation are made by e-mail to or by letter to Örebro University, Records Office, 701 82 Örebro. There are no formal requirements for the outline of a complaint, but it is important that you initially address the grounds for your complaint. Your complaint may refer to either you or someone else as the victim of discrimination or victimisation. Both students and staff are encouraged to make a complaint upon knowledge of any wrongdoings, but if you make a complaint in the case of another person, they will be asked to participate in the investigation of the matter. You may make an anonymous complaint, but these are generally difficult to investigate because the information available is inherently inadequate.
Örebro University has special procedures for handling discrimination and victimisation, the document is linked here below. Throughout the process, you may receive support and advice from the student and doctoral student representative at Örebro Student Union.
Other forms of disagreements and conflicts
Perhaps you have experienced a situation which, according to the text above, is not defined as discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or victimisation, but which still does not feel right. For example:
- Shortcomings in teaching.
- Cooperation with teachers or other students is not working well.
- Reading and study material are considered offensive.
In this and similar matters, you should first speak with your teachers to talk about the situation as you have experienced it. If you do not you feel comfortable talking to your teacher, you can turn directly to the course coordinator or head of division. If this does not resolve the situation, you may contact the head of the school at which you are a student. Your case will be dealt with in accordance with special procedures. Throughout the process, you may receive support and advice from the student and doctoral student representative at Örebro Student Union.