A Russian advertising executive who sued her boss for sexual harassment lost her case after a judge ruled that employers were obliged to make passes at female staff to ensure the survival of the human race. The unnamed executive, a 22-year-old from St Petersburg, had been hoping to become only the third woman in Russia's history to bring a successful sexual harassment action against a male employer. She alleged she had been locked out of her office after she refused to have intimate relations with her 47-year-old boss.
"He always demanded that female workers signalled to him with their eyes that they desperately wanted to be laid on the boardroom table as soon as he gave the word," she earlier told the court. "I didn't realise at first that he wasn't speaking metaphorically."
The judge said he threw out the case not through lack of evidence but because the employer had acted gallantly rather than criminally.
"If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children," the judge ruled.
Since Soviet times, sexual harassment in Russia has become an accepted part of life in the office, work place and university lecture room.
According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.
Eighty per cent of those who participated in the survey said they did not believe it possible to win promotion without engaging in sexual relations with their male superiors.
Women also report that it is common to be browbeaten into sex during job interviews, while female students regularly complain that university professors trade high marks for sexual favours.
Only two women have won sexual harassment cases since the collapse of the Soviet Union, one in 1993 and the other in 1997.
Human rights activists say that Russian women remain second-class citizens and are subjected to some of the highest levels of domestic abuse in the world.