Harassment and inappropriate treatment

Harassment is insulting behaviour directed at an individual’s personal characteristics, such as gender, age, origin, world view or sexual orientation. Harassment can be directed at a person directly or indirectly – a sexist or racist joke, for example, is harassment, even if it is not meant to be hurtful. Harassment is a form of discrimination and thus illegal as per the Non-discrimination Act.

Not all unwanted behaviour fulfils the definition of harassment or discrimination, but other types of inappropriate behaviour should be interfered with as well. Inappropriate behaviour can be, for example, excluding someone from a community, even if it is not connected to any of the abovementioned personal characteristics. The establishment of groups of friends is natural, but associations should be open to everyone interested in the topic, and everyone should feel welcome in the operations of an association.

It is difficult to set specific boundaries for what is harassment or inappropriate treatment. You can take it as a rule of thumb, however, that if someone experiences the operations as distressing or unwanted, they can be defined as harassment or inappropriate treatment. If you are not sure whether the things you have noticed are inappropriate or not, it is still worth bringing up the topic. Often, there is a reason for feeling that something is not ok, and it is better to interfere with even the small things than to not interfere at all.


How to prevent and interfere?

Investing in equality in an association’s operations also prevents harassment and inappropriate behaviour. When the atmosphere of an association is such that all kinds of people are respected and acknowledged, an atmosphere is also created in which harassment or inappropriate behaviour is not tolerated. It is also good for everyone to reflect on their personal behaviour.


In the operations of an association

  • In an association, inappropriate behaviour can best be prevented by creating a culture. If the atmosphere of your association is such that all kinds of people are respected and acknowledged, an atmosphere is also created in which harassment or inappropriate behaviour is not tolerated.
  • When organising an event, you can announce in clear terms what kind of behaviour is expected from participants, for example, by writing in the FB event or mentioning at the beginning of the event that no harassment or inappropriate behaviour is tolerated at the event. You can also mention whom to contact at the event if a problematic situation occurs. Even though such reminders might seem self-evident, they may have a preventive effect.
  • If inappropriate behaviour is brought to light in your association, always attempt to get to the bottom of it. Do not make assumptions on what has happened but listen to all parties involved before deciding on a solution. Also try to get the parties involved to talk to each other. Focus on the matter at hand and do not get side-tracked to debate some other events – there is time to deal with them later, if necessary.
  • You can also always ask for outside help in resolving the situations. In questions relating to harassment, you can contact AYY’s Harassment contact persons.
  • AYY’s Social Affairs Specialist will also support you in difficult situations and in the association’s equality work.

If you encounter harassment

  • If you become a target of harassment yourself or notice harassment, let the harasser know in clear terms that you want them to stop.
  • It is always better to interfere than to watch from the sidelines, even if you are not sure what the right way to interfere is.
  • If you do not want to interfere on your own, you can do it together with a friend.
  • If someone remarks on your own behaviour, do not stubbornly argue back but think about your behaviour and be prepared to apologise.
  • If you need outside help to resolve the situation, you can always contact AYY’s Harassment contact persons. For later investigation, it is worth writing down what happened and to keep in store the related discussions on social media, for example.
  • If the harassment case is severe enough to qualify as a criminal offence, contact the police.