Online Conference on Enforcement of Legal Norms Regulating Sexual Harassment: Results Achieved and Challenges

On December 2, 2020, an online conference on “Implementation of Legal Norms Regulating Sexual Harassment: Results Achieved and Challenges” was held at the initiative of the Public Defender’s Office and with the support of the USAID programme - "Promoting Rule of Law in Georgia" (PROLoG) that is being implemented by the East-West Management Institute (EWMI). The event was part of a 16-day activism against gender-based violence.

The the results achieved and challenges in the process of regulating sexual harassment, as well as the effectiveness of legislation and its practical implementation were discussed at the conference. The participants talked about the burden of proof and standard of evidence in cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, the definition of public space in cases of sexual harassment in public space, statistics, practices and challenges.

"When we started discussing cases of sexual harassment, there was no relevant national legislation and we tried to examine cases based on the standards developed by international institutions. Sexual harassment was banned at the legislative level last year, which increased the rate of applying to the Public Defender. To date, we have reviewed 24 alleged cases of sexual harassment and we have established sexual harassment in relation to 11 women. The diversity of cases allows us to introduce national standards and develop best practices," - Nino Lomjaria, Public Defender of Georgia, said in her welcoming speech.

Adam Schmidt, Director ofDemocracy, Governance and Social Development atUSAID Georgia, Nino Tsatsiashvili, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Nino Tsilosani, Member of the Gender Equality Council, Tamar Oniani, Member of the High Council of Justice, Lela Akiashvili Prime Minister's Advisor on Human Rights and Gender Equality Issues, delivered speeches at the event.

On the basis of the legislative changes made in 2019 for the purpose of regulating sexual harassment in the workplace and public space, the powers of the Public Defender have been significantly expanded in terms of the effective use of the anti-discrimination mechanism and enforcement of decisions. The Public Defender of Georgia is responsible for the examination of cases of sexual harassment in the private space and enforcement, while the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia is responsible for the cases of sexual harassment in the public space.

Despite this positive step, the victims’ response rate is still unsatisfactory in the country. Women still find it difficult to overcome the social and psychological barriers that accompany such facts. In addition, the lack of evidence is a serious challenge. Typically, such cases occur between the victim and the abuser, without witnesses or other evidence, which prevents many women from fighting for their rights.

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