Australian senator alleges sexual abuse inside parliament by ‘powerful’ men

Sydney, Australia, Jun 15 (EFE).- Australian senator Lidia Thorpe alleged on Thursday that she faced sexual harassment unidentified “powerful men” in the passages and staircases of the parliament, a workplace that has come under repeated criticism for being unsafe for women

“I experienced sexual comments and I was inappropriately propositioned by powerful men,” Thorpe told the senate in tears, adding that one man had even cornered her at a stairwell, and “most of this” was witnessed by staff and fellow members of the parliament.

However, she did not identify the alleged aggressors.

“As all women who have walked the corridors of this building know, it is not a safe place,” the lawmaker said, while calling for security to be enhanced in all the dark and less visible spots of the building.

Thorpe, who said she would not report the incident to the police or take the aggressors to court, had on Wednesday accused Liberal lawmaker David Van of sexual harassment and assault, without offering further details.

However, later in the day she withdrew the allegations in the house, as they went against parliamentary procedure over such complaints.

In response, Van had pleaded innocence, although on Thursday he admitted that he had changed his office in 2021 after Thorpe had complained to the senate president of the time, Scott Ryan, that his behavior had made her feel uncomfortable.

Van urged the senate to open a probe into “these outrageous claims so they can be proved to be false.”

Amid the controversy, Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton said that he had asked Van to not sit in the party room, although insisting that this was not directly linked to Thorpe’s allegations.

This is not the first time that the Canberra-based parliament has been mired in allegations of sexual crimes.

In 2021, former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins had alleged that she had been raped by a colleague in 2019 in one of the ministers’ offices inside the legislative building.

Although the complaint was finally shelved in late last year due to the impact of the judicial process on Higgins’ mental health, the Australian government had apologized to her in the parliament in February 2022 for not ensuring her security.

The official apology is part of the government’s actions following 28 recommendations made by the sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins in November 2021 following an investigation into the work culture at the parliament. EFE


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