I have suffered sexual harassment, says minister Victoria Atkins

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Media captionVictoria Atkins: I have suffered sexual harassment

Women and Equalities Minister Victoria Atkins has spoken of her experiences of workplace sexual harassment, as she urged others to share their stories.

In one example, the minister revealed, someone had sent her an email “that showed a great interest in my footwear”, after a public appearance.

“That was something that made me feel uncomfortable,” she told LBC radio.

The government is surveying 12,000 people to find out the extent of workplace harassment.

The Government Equalities Office survey is part of an initiative to tackle the problem, including a new statutory code of practice for employers.

Ms Atkins said “common sense” was needed to determine what qualified as sexual harassment in the workplace.

Comments crossed the line when they made others feel “intimidated, distressed or humiliated”, she told LBC.

Giving an example, she said: “Yesterday, I was wearing a very colourful skirt and everybody was saying how wonderful it looks. I did not take that as sexual harassment.

“But I was telling officials that, after a public appearance, I had an individual email about my footwear. It was in a way that showed a great interest in my footwear.

“And that was something that made me feel uncomfortable.

“I think common sense here will prevail and we just want to gather the evidence to see how people react to different types of behaviour.”

Speaking earlier to BBC Breakfast, Ms Atkins said: “This is not a debate about wolf-whistling or whatever. We have 15 categories of behaviour that are serious.”

She said the government wanted to find out how people had been affected by harassment, and how they dealt with it, “so that we can ensure that our workplaces are pleasant places to work”.

Ms Atkins added that she did not want to go into the details of the harassment she has been subjected to, adding: “I’m not going to be defined by the grubby behaviour of the men that behaved like that towards me.”

The minister was asked about Crystal Palace’s woman goalkeeper Lucy Gillett, who said she had received sexist abuse during Sunday’s Championship game at Coventry United.

The 25-year-old alleged that men in the crowd had called on the referee to “check the gender” of several Palace players.

Ms Atkins said: “That is her workplace. The FA or referees should have acted on it.

“She and others are entitled to not have to put up with that sort of abuse. It’s just not on.”

The Football Association has been made aware of the incident, and is looking into it.

A spokesperson said the organisation was “committed to tackling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in football at every level of the game”.

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