Lebanon: regulation on sexual harassment lacks key protections

(Beirut) – Lebanon’s new regulation on sexual harassment doesn’t meet worldwide requirements by treating sexual harassment solely as a criminal offense and neglecting prevention, labor regulation reforms, surveillance and civil cures, Human Rights Watch mentioned right now forward of Worldwide Ladies’s Day on March 8. , 2021. The Lebanese authorities ought to take a complete method, together with ratifying and implementing the Worldwide Labor Group (ILO) Conference on Violence and Harassment.

On December 21, 2020, Lebanon handed the “Legislation to Criminalize Sexual Harassment and [for] Rehabilitation of its victims. The regulation is a step ahead in making sexual harassment a criminal offense and defining whistleblower protections. Nonetheless, it doesn’t respect the Violence and Harassment Conference, which states that governments ought to deal with violence and harassment at work by means of an “inclusive, built-in and gender-sensitive method”, together with by means of the regulation. labor, occupational security and well being legal guidelines, and equality and non-discrimination legal guidelines, along with legal regulation.

“Making sexual harassment a criminal offense is a crucial step in condemning the abusive habits that has lengthy been tolerated and normalized in Lebanon, however it isn’t sufficient,” mentioned Nisha Varia, director of girls’s rights advocacy at Human Rights Watch. “Public info campaigns, necessary necessities for employers to forestall and reply to sexual harassment, monitoring and regulation enforcement are all important to sort out this significant issue that impacts private lives {and professional} ladies. “

Sexual harassment is a widespread downside in Lebanon. A 2016 report In response to the Worldwide Survey on Males and Gender Equality in Lebanon and UN Ladies, two-thirds of girls surveyed mentioned that they had skilled sexual harassment in public areas, and plenty of skilled it inside three months. previous the survey.

The regulation defines sexual harassment as “any unhealthy and repetitive habits which is extraordinary, unwelcome by the sufferer and of sexual connotation which constitutes a violation of the physique, the privateness or the feelings”. The regulation notes that sexual harassment can happen by means of speech, actions and digital means. The regulation additionally considers single or repeated acts that use “psychological, ethical, monetary or racist stress to acquire advantages of a sexual nature” as sexual harassment.

The regulation punishes sexual harassment with as much as 1 12 months in jail and fines as much as 10 instances the minimal wage. In some contexts, together with within the context of subordination or an employment relationship, it’s thought of a critical crime, and jail phrases and fines will be elevated as much as 4 years and 50 instances the minimal wage. .

A optimistic side of the regulation is the safety of victims in opposition to reprisals, particularly with regard to remuneration, promotion, switch, renewal of contract or disciplinary measures. The regulation comprises protections for whistleblowers and prohibits discrimination, abuse or disciplinary motion in opposition to those that report harassment or testify to the abuse. These reprisals will be punished with as much as 6 months in jail and a high-quality of 20 instances the minimal wage.

Nonetheless, a number of ladies’s rights teams, lots of which have labored for decade after decade, extra full model of the invoice which was submitted by the Nationwide Fee on Lebanese Ladies, expressed disappointment with the restricted scope of the accredited regulation, in addition to civil society teams ” exclusion ultimate discussions and revision of the regulation earlier than its finalization. Inaya Ezzeddine, chair of the parliament’s ladies and youngsters committee, introduced the model of the regulation that was lastly handed.

Karim Nammour, lawyer for rights watchdog Authorized Agenda, raised a number of considerations which, in response to him, may scale back the effectiveness of the regulation in defending victims of harassment, particularly within the office. “It is going to even be essential to outline reasonable protections for complainants,” he advised Human Rights Watch. “How are you going to proceed working in the event you file a legal grievance in opposition to your employer?” Courts final three to 4 years. You will get compensation afterwards, however you’ll most likely have misplaced your job. “

Survivors of sexual harassment and violence are sometimes vulnerable to re-traumatization and stigma in in search of cures by means of the legal regulation system as a consequence of discriminatory attitudes in police stations and on the a part of prosecutors and judges; the heavy burden of proof on survivors and the general public nature of legal hearings. The Worldwide Fee of Jurists discovered this quite a few obstacles within the administration of the Lebanese penal system hinder ladies’s entry to justice for sexual and gender-based violence. They embody the shortage of efficient gender-sensitive investigations, the shortage of competence of these conducting them, and of sources, and discriminatory gender insurance policies, practices and stereotypes on the a part of justice officers.

Though article 3 of the brand new regulation signifies that measures must be taken to guard the sufferer and witnesses throughout investigation and prosecution, the article stays obscure. Gender-sensitive coaching for safety companies, prosecutors and judges is crucial to deal with victims sensitively and to offer a protected setting for reporting and dealing with complaints.

In an essential step, Lebanese regulation establishes that legal proceedings don’t forestall the pursuit of civil cures, together with within the occasion of illegal dismissal and that victims are entitled to compensation for psychological, ethical or monetary harm. Nonetheless, the regulation doesn’t outline the authorized framework by which survivors can search redress in civil courts.

Lebanon ought to present a transparent path for civil cures for girls who could not need to entry the legal justice system or who want to take action alongside legal complaints, Human Rights Watch mentioned.

The ILO Conference on Violence and Harassment units out minimal obligations for governments to forestall and deal with violence and harassment at work. It emphasizes preventive measures, together with by means of necessary office insurance policies and coaching packages. A 2018 examine by the Arab Basis for Freedoms and Equality discovered that solely 15 p.c of employers surveyed in Lebanon have insurance policies that shield in opposition to sexual harassment within the office, and the brand new regulation is not going to deal with this.

The ILO Conference additionally addresses prevention by requiring governments to determine high-risk sectors and marginalized populations significantly weak to abuse. For instance, in Lebanon this might embody migrant home employees, remoted in non-public properties and linked to their employers by means of the kafala (sponsorship) system, and Syrian and Palestinian refugee ladies, who shouldn’t have a residence. authorized or who shouldn’t have the required work. allowed. Profound energy imbalances contribute to harassment, and isolation and insecure authorized standing are further boundaries to reporting abuse.

Lebanon must also conduct public consciousness campaigns. ILO treaty requirements and the calls for of the worldwide #MeToo motion have underscored the significance of such campaigns to vary social norms, gather details about these rights and encourage survivors to return ahead.

Article 6 of the regulation obliges the Ministry of Social Affairs to create a fund to help victims of sexual harassment, forestall harassment and rehabilitate abusers, by means of annual price range allocations, donations and 10% of fines imposed on folks condemned beneath the regulation. Nonetheless, Nammour famous that earlier funds established for this function, together with these supposed to guard victims of home violence or human trafficking, haven’t been activated or have taken years to be applied as a consequence of delays in adoption the mandatory legislative or regulatory decrees.

“Ladies in Lebanon should work in security and dignity, free from sexual harassment and violence,” mentioned Varia. “The federal government ought to subject decrees to develop civil cures and outline a nationwide technique, with enter from civil society, on public campaigns to interrupt taboos and office insurance policies to deal with the complete vary of harassment sexual that takes place, not simply the worst instances. . “

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