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Discrimination and Harassment

Discrimination of any kind is under no circumstances tolerated in any working environments, including fieldwork and research cruises. Everyone is encouraged to speak up about inappropriate and unjust behavior or make use of the formal channels provided by MARUM and the University of Bremen (see below "Contact"). MARUM will follow up every formal report of incidents.

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Discrimination describes insulting, disadvantageous, exclusive or illegitimate unequal treatment. It can occur intentionally or as the result of conscious or unconscious attitudes. Discrimination is not always obvious and it may not be immediately recognizable or verifiable for those affected.

Discrimination and harassment can take many forms, ranging from subtle behavior to criminal offences.

For example, people may be discriminated or redlined because of:

  • Racist attributions that relate to a person’s appearance, (supposed) origin, name, residence status or German language practice,
  • their (supposed) religious or political views,
  • their gender, gender expression or gender performance,
  • their sexual orientation or their sexual identity,
  • their (perceived) disability,
  • their age,
  • their social class, family or educational background, their place of residence, language, status as unemployed or recipients of social relations

People are often discriminated not just because of one characteristic, but because of their assumed belonging to several social groups (notion of intersectionality).

For example:

  • A black woman may experience a strong discrimination because of the combination of prejudices related to her gender and her skin color.
  • A student with a language disability and whose mother tongue is not German is more likely to have the impression that their knowledge and achievements are taken less seriously than their fellow students.

It is not always clear to those affected which characteristic the discrimination is aimed at. Different forms of discrimination can overlap, intensify and lead to multiple discrimination. Discrimination based on several factors not only adds up, but can also lead to independent experiences of discrimination. We reject a hierarchical assessment of different forms of discrimination (one form is worse than another).

Special forms of discrimination and harassment can be:

  • Bullying (or mobbing): a systematic and frequent (over a longer period of time) attitude of hostility, harassment or discrimination (either direct or indirect) against individuals within groups by other group members (single or multiple) or supervisors. The goal / effect is often the exclusion of individuals from communities.
  • Stalking: a complex pattern of behavior in which another person is spied on, persecuted, threatened, under certain circumstances also physically attacked and, in rare cases, even killed.
  • Sexual harassment: sexualized discrimination that specifically targets the gender of the person concerned. It is a common manifestation of violence against women, but it can also affect men.

In Germany the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG, esp.§ 1) aims at prevention or (ideally) the elimination of discrimination based on origin, appearance or language, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual identity.

Protection against discrimination in employment and occupation is the focus of the AGG. In addition to a prohibition of discrimination under labor law, measures and obligations of the employer to protect against discrimination as well as the rights of employees and their claims in the event of violations of the prohibition of discrimination are regulated.


Awareness: Be respectful, mind your boundaries and those of others, and be aware of power dynamics. Even if you do not experience some behavior as uncomfortable or threatening, others might not experience it quite this way.

Act: Be a responsible team member - look out for each other! It is your duty to act when you witness a boundary-violating situation. Take appropriate actions and do not be afraid: it is better to act than to do nothing. Try bystander intervention strategies from the “5 D’s” (Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, Direct). Examples can be found at https://www.ihollaback.org/bystander-resources/

In case of discrimination or harrassment

Speak up: Do not hesitate to resolve the violating situation, whether you are directly affected or a witness of inappropriate demeanor. That is, explain to the respective person that their behavior is unwanted or talk to another person about it. This takes away the “private” or “secretive” character of the situation and helps you to gain control if you are directly affected. Reactions such as ignoring or avoiding the other person’s inappropriate behavior or dealing with the situation jokingly are less effective.

Keep records: Document any incidence, e.g. date, place, and time, and any witnesses. Collecting documentation such as personal memory minutes, any related correspondence, images, calls recorded on an answering machine, text messages on your mobile, etc., strengthens your position and provides important evidence.

Seek help: Reach out to people you trust to seek support as soon as possible. However, to address a specific concern, it is important to speak with someone in a position to help you.

Offer support: If you have witnessed a boundary-violating situation, offer your support to the affected person. Studies show that the observations of witnesses add to the process of resolving the situation in question and provide emotional support to the affected person.


Your immediate superior (head of working group, chief scientist) should be notified of the incidence. If you do not want to talk to a member of your working group or a participant of an expedition, the following contact persons are available at MARUM