PARLIAMENTS are certainly not the only work environments rife with sexual harassment and assault. The wave of disclosures in response to the revelations about Harvey Weinstein has crashed over theatre, television, journalism, and financial services, with plenty of other dominos yet to fall.

High-profile perpetrators and accusers have been the focus of much media attention, but harassment is also ubiquitous in those sectors of the economy with more precarious employment and where female workers are clustered.

Parliaments, though, have many of the risk factors that enable sexual harassers to operate with impunity. They are male-dominated, with women numerically and culturally outgunned. They bring together older figures of national significance with the young, keen and inexperienced. The daily currency is loyalty, and parties are not above applying pressure to extract it.

Holyrood is not as hard-drinking as Westminster, but there are still plenty of evening receptions, nights in the pub after days on the campaign doorstep, and late-night drinks in bars around the Parliament. Alcohol doesn’t cause sexual harassment or assault, but it is used by perpetrators as self-justification, throwing a sticky cloak of confusion over situations that are already confusing for their victims.

Women in all walks of life suspect that blowing the whistle on sexual harassment is likely to be embarrassing, self-defeating, and isolating.

Young researchers in political parties can add to that their knowledge that there are literally tens of other party activists who would replace them in a heartbeat.

Sexual harassment is inextricably bound up in the sexism that permeates politics. It is a product of the same world view that manifests in the disproportionate scrutiny of female politicians’ shoes and fertility.

It draws a circle around the boys’ club and puts women on the outside. It says to its victims that neither their brains, diligence, savvy, nor physical autonomy holds any interest to their harasser. It maintains a world in which men make the decisions and women are merely acted upon.

Drawing a line under sexual harassment in politics will be no easy task, not least because Holyrood and Westminster are both slightly constrained in getting a grip on sexual harassment by their own structures.

Members of Parliament are not employees and may have no contractual or employment relationship with their party’s researchers, with journalists, or with activists.

Constituency offices function as small enterprises, with staff working together outside the direct observation of the central party machinery.

Parties can remove the whip from elected members but can only deselect them and not force them to stand down. The electorate in Scotland and in the UK cannot recall its representatives and force them out by choosing someone else at the ballot box.

Many women working in and around politics have, over the last week, publicly catalogued their experience of serial sexual harassment. Most did not report their experiences to a higher authority, and a large proportion have said that they did not know to whom such incidents could usefully be relayed.

The lack of any kind of accountability mechanism or redress procedure has led women to set up whisper networks, now based on messaging services like WhatsApp, to share warnings about harassers.

Holyrood and Westminster both need to think creatively about the types of structures and processes that would enable women and men to be confident in reporting harassment.

However, even the most robust mechanisms for gathering, investigating, and acting on complaints will not eradicate sexual harassment. This is because it, like other forms of violence against women, is both a cause and consequence of women’s inequality. To banish sexual harassment from our parliaments, and end the chilling effect that it has on women’s participation in politics, we need to stamp out sexism.

Our parliaments, along with political parties and media outlets and all of the other actors that shape parliamentary culture, need to play their part in bringing about women’s equality. Having women around the table as equal participants is key to that, and I am proud to be part of the Women 50:50 campaign working towards a gender-balanced chamber.

Women need to be nominated to join the all-male Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, where conversations about the running of the Parliament itself happen. This normalisation of women’s leadership and valuing of our perspective is vital if the Parliament is to be a place where those women who want to be part of shaping our nation’s laws, policy, and regulation can enjoy rewarding work free from harassment.