IMF rejects report of widespread sexual harassment

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The International Monetary Fund rejected on Friday a New York Times report alleging that sexual harassment and extramarital affairs are rife in the corridors of the world body.

"This is not the Fund we know and work in," spokesman William Murray said in response to the Times front page story headlined "At IMF, Men on Prowl and Women on Guard."

The report comes after the then IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested on Saturday and charged with sexually assaulting a hotel chambermaid in his suite in a Manhattan hotel. He has denied all charges.

The respected daily described a culture of "alpha male economists" freely harassing female staffers and women who "avoid wearing skirts for fear of attracting unwanted attention."

It said the Fund was "an institution whose sexual norms and customs are markedly different from those of Washington, leaving its female employees vulnerable to harassment."

Murray took issue with that image of one of the pillars of the world financial system.

"Is it a perfect place? No," he said in a statement.

"But this report creates an impression of institutionalized harassment and disrespect. That is not the case. Harassment is not tolerated in the institution."

The IMF published a new official code of conduct Thursday ahead of the article which tightened its rules on personal relationships in the office.

It called the new rules, which date to May 6, "strong and consistent with best practice, including in the United States."

"A close personal relationship between a supervisor and subordinate presents a potential conflict of interest and must be reported and resolved, usually by reassignment of one of the individuals to a different work unit," it said.

"Failure to report and then resolve the potential conflict of interest constitutes misconduct and is grounds for disciplinary action," it added in a statement.

The married Strauss-Kahn was criticized nearly three years ago for an affair he had with a Hungarian economist who worked in the IMF's Africa department.

The IMF board called the relationship a "serious error of judgment," but did not find him guilty of harassment or abuse of power.

© 2011 AFP

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