The legal affairs committee of the Estonian parliament on Tuesday gave its nod to Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP Liisa Oviir's proposal to add bodily harassment of a sexual nature as a misdemeanor to the Penal Code.
Oviir proposed the amendment at the beginning of April, saying that at present people's rights to self-esteem and bodily integrity are not protected to the fullest extent, spokespeople for the SDE parliamentary group told BNS.
A survey on violence against women taken by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2014 revealed that approximately half of over 15-year-old Estonian women have experienced at least one situation that could be considered as sexual harassment, while 30 percent of women have experienced physical sexual assault. Surveys show that more and more men go through similar negative experiences.
Oviir's proposal to amend the law was supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs, which found that in this way it is possible to give out a clear societal signal of the unacceptability of sexual harassment and stipulate concrete legal consequences. A statement in support of the bill has been issued to the parliament's legal affairs committee by the Estonian Union for Child Welfare, Tartu Women's Shelter, Parnu Women's Support Center, NGO Eluliin, Estonian Women Lawyers Association and Estonian Women's Shelters Union.
The Parliament will start discussing the proposal to amend the law on June 6.