In 2019, based on an initiative of the Georgian Parliament’s Gender Equality Council, and in collaboration with the Public Defender’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Georgia’s Parliament enacted mechanisms for combatting sexual harassment in the workplace and public spaces and empowered the Public Defender’s Office to monitor and enforce anti-discrimination and anti-sexual harassment legislation.
As part of its efforts to facilitate effective enforcement of the legislative changes and further empower the judiciary, Legal Aid Service, Georgian Bar Association, and NGOs to fight sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, EWMI's Promoting Rule of Law in Georgia (PROLoG) Activity, funded by USAID, held an online meeting on June 16 in coordination with the Gender Equality Council of the Parliament of Georgia focused on the implementation of the new legislation. The attendees included Adam Schmidt, Director of Democracy, Governance and Social Development at USAID Georgia, Nino Tsilosani, Member of the Gender Equality Council, Nino Tsatsiashvili, Deputy Minister of the Internal Affairs, Nino Lomjaria, Public Defender of Georgia, and Lela Akiashvili, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights and Gender Equality Issues.
As one year had passed since the adoption of the legislation, the meeting focused on the extent to which the legislation fulfills its purpose, challenges related to its implementation, and whether any new practices have been adopted since its passing. The attendees identified several major challenges, including a lack of evidence and issues related to the identification of offenders in sexual harassment cases, and discussed ideas to improve the implementation of the law. Positive changes following the passing of the law were also identified, including an increase in the number of sexual harassment referrals made to the Public Defender’s Office and the development of trainings for police officers to increase their sensitivity towards sexual harassment issues.
Public awareness and solidarity with the alleged victims of sexual harassment were identified as key success factors, as well as support for organizations seeking to improve their internal mechanisms and develop policies to respond to and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. In this regard, PROLoG plans to support a number of additional activities to ensure the effective implementation of the sexual harassment regulations, and has worked with an international and local expert to update the sexual harassment policies for organizations, including the Georgian Bar Association, Legal Aid Service, and High Council of Justice, and to train PROLoG grantee lawyers on the burden of proof and evidentiary issues in sexual harassment cases, as well as how to protect the privacy of victims.