Each fifth woman is subject to subtle forms of sexual harassment

Each fifth woman working in Moldova is subject to subtle forms of sexual harassment, such as indecent gestures or comments about sex, while four in 100 women face serious forms of harassment. 20% of the aggressed women faced threats or demands to have sex made by the teacher in education institutions, shows a study carried out in 2016 whose results were presented in a news conference at IPN by the Partnership for Development Center and the National Youth Council of Moldova on November 19.

The data show the employed women often witness abusive behaviors: 21% of them faced subtle forms of sexual harassment; about 13.5% said they were touched in an indecent way, while 6.7% said they were offered to have sex for particular recompenses or favors. In the education system, the phenomenon of sexual harassment has very serious forms such as threats or demands by teachers to have sex for particular advantages. According to activists, only 15% of the harassed women reported the harassment and such a low figure is alarming.

There are shortcomings in the national legislation on education and in the internal documents and practices of education institutions, said civic activist Alina Andronache, who pleads for gender equality. According to her, the Education Code does not expressly oblige the education institutions to adopt internal procedures for preventing and combating sexual harassment. At the same time, the University Charters and University Codes of Ethics do not define or define superficially sexual harassment and thus do not stipulate mechanisms and measures for preventing and fighting the phenomenon. “The Education Code does not contain provisions that would ban sexual harassment. The Code of Ethics contains only one phrase that bans sexual harassment and this document does not contain a mechanism as to where the victim can report the case of harassment, what this should do and who should intervene,” stated Alina Andronache.

Natalia Covrig, public policy analyst at the Partnership for Development Center, referred to the international practice in preventing and combating sexual harassment in education institutions. In most of the states, the education codes ban expressly sexual harassment. “The education codes in these states oblige the education institutions to adopt policies to prevent sexual harassment so that each education institution has internal regulations concerning the combating of sexual harassment. These regulations contain measures that are taken in case of sexual harassment: where the students should go; which are the bodies responsible for such problems; what the penalties are,” stated Natalia Covrig.

Dumitru Sliusarenco, lawyer for “Promo-LEX” Association, said the phenomenon of sexual harassment is not very well understood in society. The problems is that those who should fight this phenomenon do not know much about sexual harassment. “The stereotypes and prejudice existing in society influence both the victims and those who should take measures. The victims avoid filing complaints as they fear they will be blamed and would have their image spoiled in the community. Those who should investigate cases of sexual harassment often disregard and even deride the complaints about sexual harassment,” stated the lawyer.

According to Dumitru Sliusarenko, it is important for the victim of sexual harassment to know how to act, namely to put up resistance and to warn the aggressor that such type of behavior is not wanted. It is also important to find a trustworthy person and to tell this about the problem. The victim should collect different types of evidence, such as witnesses, audio and video recordings, messages that could be later used to prove the act of sexual harassment. The persons who faced sexual harassment should go to the Council for Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Equality and can also go to the police or the prosecutor’s office.

National Youth Council deputy chairman Roman Banari said that to combat sexual harassment in schools and universities, the student councils and associations should be empowered to have the right to confidentiality when they report cases of sexual harassment. These should be also taught to identify and report such cases.

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