Russia’s First Proposed Anti-Sexual Harassment Law

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MOSCOW — Russia’s first proposed anti-sexual harassment law might not have the intended effects of decreasing sexual harassment in the country. The draft law is currently being considered and debated by the Duma, the Russian Assembly.

Parliamentarian Oleg Nilov, the author of the law, says that the legislation is intended to protect the honor of the “more beautiful, but weaker sex,” namely females. This law perpetuates the sexist notion that females are weak and need their virtuousness to be unsullied.

The law defines harassment as any “unwelcome contact or attempted contact, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” from males to females. There is no prohibition of females sexually harassing men, or of same sex harassment.

The law requires first-time Russian offenders to face a fine of 30,000-50,000 rubles ($830-$1380) or 80-120 hours of community service. Second-time offenders face a higher fine and longer hours of community service. Male non-Russian foreigners will be deported for sexual harassment. Russian officials believe that foreigners have a higher chance of committing serious acts of sexual harassment.

Nilov stated that migrant workers who cannot speak Russian have to rely on body language to communicate with women and that “adopting this law can significantly reduce ethnic tensions” in their country. Critics of this law argue that this law is racist and can be utilized to unfairly target and deport unwanted foreigners out of Russia. Surveys by state pollsters reveal that many Russians are fearful of migrant workers and ethnic tensions. This law could potentially give law enforcement more freedom in persecuting certain groups of individuals.

Women are lacking rights in Russia. The World Economic Forum ranked Russia as 61st out of 126 countries in gender equality. Although there is little official data on sexual harassment statistics in Russia, sexual harassment is widespread in the country. In a 2012 survey by the Oleg Sukhov legal center, around 30 percent of Russian women have experienced sexual harassment at their workplace. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, “only two women have won cases accusing males of sexual harassment.”

Although this law is intended to protect women from sexual harassment, the country requires efficient and dedicated law enforcement and bureaucracy to implement any kind of legislation. The proposition of an anti-sexual harassment law is an improvement in Russian government, but the country still lacks decisive laws that protect the rights of all individuals living within its borders.

Sources: The Moscow Times, Buzzfeed
Photo: Gb Times

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