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Harassment covers a wide range of offensive behaviour. It is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset. In the legal sense, it is behaviour which is found threatening or disturbing. Sexual harassment refers to persistent and unwanted sexual advances, typically in the workplace, where the consequences of refusing are potentially very disadvantageous to the victim.

Etymology

The word is based in English since circa 1618 as loan word from the French , which was in turn already attested in 1572 meaning torment, annoyance, bother, trouble and later as of 1609 was also referred to the condition of being exhausted, overtired. Of the French verb harasser itself we have first records in a Latin to French translation of 1527 of ThucydidesHistory of the war that was between the Peloponnesiansmarker and the Atheniansmarker both in the countries of the Greeks and the Romans and the neighbouring places where the translator writes harasser allegedly meaning harceler (to exhaust the enemy by repeated raids); and in the military chant Chanson du franc archer of 1562, where the term is referred to a gaunt jument (de poil fauveau, tant maigre et harassée: of fawn horsehair, so meagre and …) where it is supposed that the verb is used meaning overtired.

A hypothesis about the origin of the verb harasser is harace/harache, which was used in the 14th century in expressions like courre à la harache (to pursue) and prendre aucun par la harache (to take somebody under constraint). The Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, a German etymological dictionary of the French language (1922–2002) compares phonetically and syntactically both harace and harache to the interjection hare and haro by alleging a pejorative and augmentative form. The latter was an exclamation indicating distress and emergency (recorded since 1180) but is also reported later in 1529 in the expression crier haro sur (to arise indignation over somebody). hare 's use is already reported in 1204 as an order to finish public activities as fairs or markets and later (1377) still as command but referred to dogs. This dictionary suggests a relation of haro/hare with the old lower franconian *hara (here) (as by bringing a dog to heel).

While the pejorative of an exclamation and in particular of such an exclamation is theoretically possible for the first word (harace) and maybe phonetically plausible for harache, a semantic, syntactic and phonetic similarity of the verb harasser as used in the first popular attestation (the chant mentioned above) with the word haras should be kept in mind: Already in 1160 haras indicated a group of horses constrained together for the purpose of reproduction and in 1280 it also indicated the enclosure facility itself, where those horses are constrained. The origin itself of harass is thought to be the old Scandinavian hârr with the Romanic suffix –as, which meant grey or dimmish horsehair. Controversial is the etymological relation to the Arabic word for horse whose roman transliteration is faras.

Although the French origin of the word harassment is beyond all question, in the Oxford English Dictionary and those dictionaries basing on it a supposed Old French verb harer should be the origin of the French verb harasser, despite the fact that this verb cannot be found in French etymologic dictionaries like that of the :fr:Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales or the :fr:Trésor de la langue française informatisé (see also their corresponding websites as indicated in the interlinks); since the entry further alleges a derivation from hare, like in the mentioned German etymological dictionary of the French language a possible misprint of harer = har/ass/er = harasser is plausible or cannot be excluded. In those dictionaries the relationship with harassment were an interpretation of the interjection hare as to urge/set a dog on, despite the fact that it should indicate a shout to come and not to go (hare = hara = here; cf. above). The American Heritage Dictionary prudently indicates this origin only as possible.

History

United States

In 1964, the United States Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,and prohibiting discrimination at work on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin and sex. This later became the legal basis for early harassment law. The practice of developing workplace guidelines prohibiting harassment was pioneered in 1969, when the U.S. Department of Defense drafted a Human Goals Charter, establishing a policy of equal respect for both sexes. In Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, : the U.S. Supreme Court recognized harassment suits against employers for promoting a sexually hostile work environment. In 2006, U.S.A. President George W. Bush signed a law which prohibited the transmission of annoying messages over the Internet (aka spamming) without disclosing the sender's true identity.

New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination ("LAD")

The LAD prohibits employers from discriminating in any job-related action, including recruitment, interviewing, hiring, promotions, discharge, compensation and the terms, conditions and privileges of employment on the basis of any of the law's specified protected categories. These protected categories are: race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), marital status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information liability for military service, or mental or physical disability, including AIDS and HIV related illnesses. The LAD prohibits intentional discrimination based on any of these characteristics. Intentional discrimination may take the form of differential treatment or statements and conduct that reflect discriminatory animus or bias.

Canadamarker

In 1984, the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibited sexual harassment in workplaces under federal jurisdiction.

United Kingdom

In the UK there are a number of laws protecting people from harassment including the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Ambiguity

Both because the term is used in common English, and because where the term is defined by law, the law varies by jurisdiction, it is difficult to provide any exact definition that is accepted everywhere.

The ambiguity begins with the fact that some kinds of harassment are, or seem to be, unconscious, small, ephemeral and non-actionable. See microinequity.

In some cultures, for instance, simply stating a political opinion can be seen as unwarranted and a deliberate attempt to intimidate — in a totalitarian society any such statement could be interpreted as an attempt to involve someone in rebel activity or implicate them in same, with the implication that if they refuse, they are putting their own life in danger. More usually, some label such as "anti-social" or related to treason is used to label such behaviour — it being treated as an offense against the state not the person. This resembles the use of psychiatry to imprison dissidents which is common in many countries.

Another example is that under some versions of Islamic Law merely insulting Islam is considered to be a harassment of all believers, and in Japanmarker insulting any faith is usually considered taboo and has legal sanctions . Because of these variations, there is no way even within one society to provide a truly neutral definition of harassment.

Categories

However, broad categories of harassment often recognized in law include:

Types of harassment

There are a number of harassments that fall into this category.

  • Bullying

  • Harassment that can occur on the playground, school, in the workforce (may it be sexual harassment or verbal harassment) or any other place. Usually physical and psychological harassing behaviour perpetrated against an individual, by one or more persons. In recent years bullying in the workplace and in schools has come to light as being much more serious and widespread than previously thought.

  • Psychological harassment

  • This is humiliating or abusive behaviour that lowers a person’s self-esteem or causes them torment. This can take the form of verbal comments, actions or gestures. Falling into this category is workplace mobbing.

    Community Based Harassment — stalking by a group against an individual using repeated distractions that the individual is sensitized to, such as clicking an ink pen.

  • Racial harassment

  • The targeting of an individual because of their race or ethnicity. The harassment may include words, deeds, and actions that are specifically designed to make the target feel degraded due to their race or ethnicity.

  • Religious harassment

  • Verbal, psychological or physical harassment is used against targets because they choose to practice a specific religion. Religious harassment can also include forced and involuntary conversions.[780496]

  • Sexual harassment

  • Harassment that can happen anywhere but is most common in the workplace, and schools. It involves unwanted and unwelcome, words, deeds, actions, gestures, symbols, or behaviours of a sexual nature that make the target feel uncomfortable.Gender and sexual orientation harassment fall into this family. Involving children, "gay" or "homo" is a common insult falling into this category.

  • Stalking

  • The unauthorized following and surveillance of an individual, to the extent that the person's privacy is unacceptably intruded upon, and the victim fears for their safety.

  • Mobbing

  • Violence committed directly or indirectly by a loosely affiliated and organized group of individuals to punish or even execute a person for some alleged offence without a lawful trial. The 'offense' can range from a serious crime like murder or simple expression of ethnic, cultural, or religious attitudes. The issue of the victim's actual guilt or innocence is often irrelevant to the mob, since the mob relies on contentions that are unverifiable, unsubstantiated, or completely fabricated.

  • Hazing

  • To persecute, harass, or torture in a deliberate, calculated, planned, manner. Typically the targeted individual is a subordinate, for example, a fraternity pledge, a first-year military cadet, or somebody who is considered 'inferior' or an 'outsider'. Hazing is illegal in many instances.

  • Police Harassment

  • Unfair treatment conducted by law officials including but not limited to excessive force, profiling, threats, coercion, and racial, ethnic, religious, gender/sexual, age, or other forms of discrimination.

Colloquial speech

In some contexts of colloquial speech, the word "harassment" and its derivatives can mean in a playful manner "bothering". In computer gaming contexts, "harassment" might constitute provocative or annoying actions in the game. Harassment in strategy games may also mean early attacks aimed to stunt an opponent's growth of either economy or technology. In these contexts, the severity of the terminology is much less intense, and does not carry the same connotations as the legal definitions.

See also





References

  1. J. Amyot, Œuvres morales, p. 181
  2. M. Lescarbot, Histoire de la Nouvelle France, I, 479
  3. Etymology of harassement in the French etymologic dictionary CNRTL (in French)
  4. The original text of the chant
  5. Etymology of harasser in the French etymologic dictionary CNRTL (in French)
  6. Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales
  7. Etymology of haro
  8. Etymology of haras
  9. Etymology of harassment in OED related harassdictionaries,like the Merriam Webster
  10. Declan McCullagh. Create an e-annoyance, go to jail. CNET news. January 9, 2006


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