Contravention and criminal components in sexual harassment should be delimited

Moldova’s legislation does not make a clear delimitation between the contravention (administrative) and criminal components of offenses, said the head of the Council for Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Equality Yan Feldman, referring in particular to gender-based harassment. “Why is this delimitation important? Because many cases that can be classed as criminal are examined as contraventions and the opposite is also possible,” Yan Feldman stated in a news conference at IPN.

The Council for Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Equality and also the Women’s Law Center and the Partnership for Development Center made a common call to the MPs to review the legal framework for preventing gender-based and sexual harassment at the workplace. They proposed a bill to amend eight legal acts. “This is a long-awaited and necessary improvement of the legal framework given the conditions in which the Republic of Moldova is now, but not only as regards the punishment or criminalization of cases, but also their prevention,” stated Yan Feldman.

He noted there are now cases when the persons are punished for gender-based harassment and this is welcome, but the imposed penalties not always match the gravity of the committed offense. “It is just a start of struggle and, to adopt a more comprehensive and clear approach from all viewpoints, this amendment proposals should be supported,” stated Yan Feldman.

Arina Țurcan, lawyer at the Women’s Law Center, said it is hard for the jurists to make a difference between an act of discrimination and an act of sexual harassment that falls under the criminal legislation, not to mention the victims.

“The normative framework should be clear so that the victims know what act they go to report. Given this vagueness, the victims often go to an institution, for example, to the employer or the Labor Inspectorate and the statutes of limitations can expire while the complaint is being examined there.  The period for reporting these cases to the Council for Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Equality is of a year. The victim, going to institutions that are not empowered to examine these complaints, can lose time or can be discouraged,” stated Arina Țurcan.

The lawyer noted the legal framework should clearly say when and where the cases of harassment should be reported. Sexual harassment is an offense and it should be examined appropriately.

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