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Leading US lawmakers call for sexual harassment training

Aides set up a poster before a news conference with Las Vegas shooting survivors outside the US Capitol November 1, 2017. (Getty Images)

Leading US lawmakers are calling for compulsory training and other measures to prevent sexual harassment in Congress, amid a growing sexual assault scandal that has gripped the US media and entertainment industries and the realm of politics.

The calls from Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and others follow a series of news reports about female lawmakers and staffers experiencing sexual advances on Capitol Hill.

Ryan, a Republican who represents Wisconsin's 1st congressional district, sent lawmakers a letter on Friday urging them to undergo sexual harassment training and make it mandatory for their staff.

"Any form of harassment has no place in this institution. Each of us has a responsibility to ensure a workplace that is free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation," wrote Ryan. "We can and should lead by example."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi also called for the passage of a law that requires anti-harassment training, enhancing anti-retaliation protections for staffers who report harassment, and streamlining dispute resolution.

"I think we are at a tipping point in our country," the California Democrat told The Associated Press. "For a long time the Congress was a place where every congressional office had its own rules. ... The system needs to be changed."

In the Senate, New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who revealed several years ago with incidents of inappropriate comments from male senators, also announced legislation on the issue in the upper chamber of Congress.

Congresswoman Linda Sanchez described being propositioned repeatedly in years past by one lawmaker who still serves.

The measure comes after recent allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein led to an avalanche of complaints against other high-profile men in a variety of industries.

Women in the US and UK have recently been coming forward to share encounters of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, including in the media and entertainment industries and the realm of politics.

Nearly half of all employed women in the United States say they have received an unwelcome sexual advance or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature at work, according to an NBC News and The Wall Street Journal  poll released last week.

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