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The Sciences

Sexual Harassment: A Bad Plan for Population Growth

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskyAugust 6, 2008 9:32 PM

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A Russian judge has thrown out a 22-year-old advertising executive's sexual harassment claim against her boss because "If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children," according to the

Telegraph U.K.

The plaintiff's claim included allegations that her 47-year-old boss had demanded sex from every female employee and had locked her out of her office after she refused to have "intimate relations" with him. The judge didn't toss out the case on the theory that these facts weren't true, or even that they didn't constitute sexual harassment. Rather, he ruled that such harassment was harmless—a view that has precedent in Russian courts, given that only two women have won sexual harassment cases since the fall of the Soviet Union. But the presumptive logic underlying the ruling—that sex harassment in the workplace could help grow the country's population, which has been in decline to the point where the government has stepped in to pass child-bearing initiatives—is hardly good science, not to mention a poor legal precedent. While workplace sex harassment in Russia is common to the point of being expected—a recent survey of professional Russian women found that a whopping 100 percent had been sexually harassed by their bosses, and 32 percent had had sex with their manager at least once—the judge is making several major assumptions about the link between more sex on the job and more Russian babies. Assuming a boss impregnates his secretary, either through semi-consensual sex as a result of harassment or from full-on rape, the odds are pretty high that the pregnancy will be unwanted, making the woman more likely to abort. Russia's abortion rate is already sky-high—while the total population in 2006 was around 143 million, the total number of abortions that year was around 1.6 million (compare that to the mere 1.2 million abortions in the U.S. in 2005, despite a more-than-double population size). Plus there's the fact that, in the wake of the country's economic collapse, it's still pretty tough to support yourself, let alone a child, in Russia, which could help explain why women are putting up with such massive levels of on-the-job harassment in the first place. While getting assaulted by your boss may be the only way to pay the bills, it sure isn't incentive to give birth to more Russian babies. Image: iStockPhoto

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