Russian Lawmaker Proposes First Sexual Harassment Law

There is a Russian saying, "If he beats you, it means he loves you."

Russian lawmakers have proposed the country's first anti-sexual harassment law, but critics remain skeptical that the legislation would deter Russia's rampant sexual harassment.

Parliamentarian Oleg Nilov submitted the legislation to the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, on March 7, the eve of International Women's Day, according to the Moscow Times. Nilov wrote on his blog that the bill is intended to protect the honor of 'the more beautiful, but weaker sex,'" the Moscow Times reported.

The draft law defines harassment as "unwelcome contact or attempted contact, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature," according to the Moscow Times. Under the draft law, which pertains only to male harassment of women, first-time Russian offenders face a fine of 30,000 to 50,000 rubles ($830 to $1,380) or 80 to 120 hours of community service, while second-time offenders face a fine of 80,000 to 100,000 rubles ($2,200 to $2,765) and up to 200 hours of community service. Non-Russians found guilty of sexual harassment also face deportation.

There are no reliable statistics regarding rates of sexual harassment in Russia, which women's rights activists says happens with great frequency and impunity. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, only two women have won cases accusing males of sexual harassment, according to the Daily Telegraph., a Russian website covering the country's financial industry, collected 15 stories of harassment observed or experienced by female investment bank employees.

"Desks at investment banks are in an open space, so you can easily see what's happening on your colleagues' monitors," one woman explained. "So we all saw the animated pornographic video that one of the traders watched almost every day. Periodically this was accompanied by his crude comments, which cannot be reproduced here. Our presence didn't bother my colleague, who asked me to stop spying and continued to watch the video."

"A male colleague said to a female colleague: 'Those tight jeans really look good on you,'" another woman recounted. "She turned and left. Another colleague added: 'Especially from the back!' Everyone laughed."

In 2008, a Russian court threw out a case in which a 22-year-old female advertising executive sued her employer for sexual harassment, ruling that the employer had "acted gallantly rather than criminally," according to the Telegraph. "If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children," the judge said.

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