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Georgia Makes First Attempts To Define Legal Concept of Harassment

By Khatia Kardava
Wednesday, January 17
In the beginning of this year, Tbilisi City Court ruled in favour of a journalist and actress Tatia Samkharadze, who sued her former boss, producer and TV host Shalva Ramishvili for sexual harassment. It is the first time in the history of the Georgian judiciary that the court ruled in favour of a person suing for sexual harassment.

The exact, comprehensive national data on sexual harassment does not exist, although statistics of EU countries show that every second woman has been a victim of sexual harassment at least once. At the same time, 32% indicate that his colleague was the superior or client, according to the 2015 data of Fundamental Rights Agency. Depending on the scale of the problem, sexual harassment in Georgia is considered a taboo and many people, who have experienced it, do not fully realize that sexual harassment is one of the forms of violence and discrimination, the website of UN Women Georgia says. The Public Defender's practice shows that the number of such cases is very high. The victims of harassment do not speak about the problem, on the one hand, due to the attitudes in the society and on the other hand, due to the malfunction of the response mechanisms. At present, the Georgian legislation does not provide for the concept of sexual harassment.

On March 28, 2017, the Public Defender of Georgia addressed the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee with a special proposal regarding the fulfillment of obligations under the Istanbul Convention and sexual harassment regulation by the legislation.

"We still actively demand the legislative regulation of the issue, but apart from the legislative regulation, the introduction of internal institutional response mechanisms by employers is of great importance. In this regard, the Public Defender's practice of introduction of internal mechanisms for prevention of sexual harassment is worth noting,” said former Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili.

The petition, organized by an umbrella Georgian Women’s Movement group, was signed by more than 1,000 people online and submitted to Parliament on October 24, calling for the criminalization of sexual harassment in public and at workplaces.

“There are no legislative penalties for sexual harassment in Georgia today, and it’s not defined as discrimination,” the petition says, urging Parliament to amend the legislation.

Although, there is no legal concept of "harassment" in Georgia, Parliament passed a so-called anti-discrimination law in 2014, which prohibits the discrimination against people with all the other signs in terms of gender and sexual orientation. Similar discrimination is prohibited in labor relations with the Labor Code of Georgia (Article 2).

The signatories demand relevant amendments to the Labor Code as well as the Code of Administrative Offenses. The petition text reads: "Sexual harassment in public space includes comments of a sexual nature, lewd jokes, cat-calling, staring, persistent harassment with a request for a meeting or to give one’s phone number, touching, showing genitals, etc... The absence of prohibiting legislation for sexual harassment leads to abusive impunity and discrimination on gender grounds.”

The word "staring," which is used to illustrate a specific action in the text, has become the subject of joking in social networks.

One of the petitioners and a member of the Women's Movement, Baia Pataraia, says that overall the society does not find discussions about the issue alarming.

"It's great that this debate is going on. Some people only now have acknowledged that the other person cannot be bothered…It is good, " she said.

Speaking to the Voice of America, Elene Rusetskaya, head of the Women's Information Center, says: "Of course, it does not mean that one looks at another person, and he/she automatically discriminates someone and he/she must be punished. There are certain circumstances when the rights are violated.”

The Parliamentary Committee for the Protection of Human Rights reviewed a petition made by the Women’s Movement and forwarded it to the Gender Council for further discussions.

Ana Tsurtsumia, Parliamentary Secretary of the Gender Equality Council, stated: "The Parliamentary Human Rights Committee discussed the petition at its session. . . Based on the fact that we have already worked on the issue in the Gender Council Action Plan, this process goes on, we have studied the international practice and we are going to initiate changes on this issue.”

Regarding the question when the law will come into force Dimitri Tskitishvili, member of Gender Council and Deputy Chairperson of the Foreign Relations Committee, responded:

“We want to initiate changes this year, but in order to make these changes effective, it is necessary to reconcile it with the structures that must ensure the effective implementation of new norms. So, prior to initiation, we will have consultations with the government and the civil sector,” Tskitishvili said.