Justice Ministry: Sexual harassment not to be part of Penal Code ({{commentsTotal}})

Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu is facing heavy criticism for his ministry's decision not to criminalize sexual harassment. Source: (ERR)

Despite demands of women’s associations to make sexual harassment a crime in its own right, the Ministry of Justice has decided not to include such a provision in a new bill aimed at aligning Estonian law with the European Union’s Istanbul Convention.

According to daily Eesti Päevaleht, Reinsalu introduced a bill to the Riigikogu last week that aims to change the provisions of the Penal Code that set out the legal response to violence against women. Though the proposals of several ministers were taken into account, women’s rights organizations criticize that sexual harassment is not included as a crime.

The bill is part of Estonia’s efforts to align its laws with the European Union’s Istanbul Convention, which sets out how to prevent and respond to violence against women. The Ministry of Justice has already called for the criminalization of female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and stalking.

The round table of Estonian women’s associations as well as the union of Estonian women’s shelters submitted a proposal to include sexual harassment as a crime in its own right already while the bill was drafted, but the ministry did not take it into account.

The ministry’s response stated that the issue was already covered by the definition of sexual harassment in the Gender Equality Act, and that based on this law victims could turn to civil courts.

Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu said that adding a paragraph covering harassment to the Penal Code was not expedient, and that the Istanbul Convention didn’t demand it either. “This would be overregulation,” Reinsalu said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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