Effective investigation of sexual harassment remains a challenge

Date: Friday, January 17, 2020

According to the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, inequality and discrimination are the foundation of the continuum of violence against women and girls, including sexual harassment, which for too long has been normalized, justified and made invisible.

Canadian expert Adriana Greenblatt discussing the victim/survivor centered approach when investigating sexual harassment cases
Canadian expert Adriana Greenblatt discussing the victim/survivor centered approach when investigating sexual harassment cases; Photo: UN Women

In its continuous efforts towards ending sexual harassment, UN Women organized trainings for national partners to improve sexual harassment mechanisms in the workplace, as well as to investigate sexual harassment cases using an approach centred on the victims/survivors.

Two trainings, conducted between 13 to 17 January 2020 in Borjomi and facilitated by expert Adriana Greenblatt of Canada, brought together over 50 participants, including representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Office of the Public Defender of Georgia, LEPL Academy of the Ministry of Finance of Georgia, LEPL Enterprise Georgia, LEPL Innovation and Technology Agency of Georgia, LEPL Maritime Transport Agency, Tbilisi Transport Company, SOCAR Georgia Petroleum, Orient Logic, Georgian Farmer’s Association, and both Tbilisi and Batumi State Universities.

“These trainings have made a powerful impact on boosting participants’ interest in the issue, even more than I had expected,” Ms. Greenblatt enthusiastically reflected. Many participants admitted that the trainings seriously challenged their beliefs about victims “encouraging” or “stimulating” sexual harassment behaviour and committed to breaking this stereotype by putting victims/survivors in the centre of the investigation. Male participants felt especially empowered and aware of their possible “inappropriate” behaviour, which can significantly contribute to a hostile workplace and discrimination. They have committed to being more self-aware in the workplace and supporting others who experience sexual harassment.

Participants discuss sexual harassment investigation cases during a role play exercise
Participants discuss sexual harassment investigation cases during a role play exercise; Photo: UN Women

“The training on investigations of sexual harassment cases was extremely informative and engaging and gave us the opportunity to look at the issue from different angles, for example, how sensitive is the investigation process, what is the victim/survivor-centred approach, what needs to be considered when interviewing a victim/survivor, and how should sexual harassment investigation protocols be designed considering all of the above-mentioned factors,” noted Tamta Chrikishvili, Head of the Civilian Personnel Policy Section of the Department of Human Resources at the Ministry of Defence of Georgia.

The trainings were aimed at supporting the participant organizations to set up internal sexual harassment investigation commissions and to develop the capacities of their members to conduct victim/survivor-centred investigations.

The initiative was funded by the UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.