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Sexism a problem ‘for several years' in Danish city council: local politician

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Sexism a problem ‘for several years' in Danish city council: local politician
A 2013 archive photo of Sonja Marie Jensen at a Social Democrat event in Nyborg. Photo: Johnny Anthon Wichmann/Scanpix
10:24 CEST+02:00
The chairperson for the Social Democrats in the town of Nyborg has come out in support of a junior female colleague who went public with her experiences of sexist treatment at work.

Speaking to TV2 Fyn, 22-year-old Nyborg councillor Sonja Marie Jensen Wednesday criticised male colleagues for “butt slaps” and inappropriate comments.

“I have to be the target for a slap on the behind or am told I'll sleep my way to the top. I have to put up with people dictating that I should have an education or children before I'm allowed to have any political stances, which I think is a joke,” Jensen said.

The local politician said that she had been the target of harassment from politicians on both sides of the political spectrum, including members of Nyborg city council.

Jensen also described her experiences in a blog post on the Social Democrat website PioPio Tuesday, where she called for the issue to be addressed, citing its potential discouraging effect on young women entering politics.

Vibeke Ejlertsen, Social Democrat chairperson at Nyborg city council, said that she understands the complaints of her colleague, reports news agency Ritzau.

But Ejlertsen stopped short of calling the issues described by Jensen ‘sexual harassment' – which can be reported to the police.

“It cannot be in doubt that Sonja has experienced what I would called everyday sexism. We are not at a stage where something needs to be reported. But we are at a stage where there is a tone that needs to be updated and made less sexist,” she told Ritzau.

READ ALSO: 1 in 3 young Danes face everyday sexism

Ejlertsen, who has been a member of the council for ten years, said that she has also witnessed sexism at the workplace.

“There is behaviour, which I have remarked upon for several years, which I think could be regulated in a positive direction, to put it kindly,” she said.

The incidents mentioned by Jensen could potentially lead to charges if they were reported to police.

Several male members of the council expressed their disappointment in Jensen's statements Wednesday, reports Ritzau, arguing that not naming specific people could lead to a loss of trust in innocent individuals.

Jensen was also criticised for going to the press rather than using internal channels.

But Ejlertsen said that it had not been Jensen's intention to lay the blame on individuals.

“Her aim was to speak about this maybe being the reason there are so few young, female political candidates,” she said.

“The treatment one risks being exposed to is not okay,” the chairperson said to Ritzau.

Ejlertsen said that although she regretted the negative press around the city council she chairs, she understood Jensen's decision to go public.

“Change comes when people are made aware that their everyday actions are offensive. Some people don't think it does any harm slap someone's butt or talk about dumb blondes,” she said.

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