Sexual harassment in the workplace in Kosovo

Despite the many laws and regulations that exist in Kosovo, the field of sexual harassment remains uncovered. Consequently, there are no institutional mechanisms to fight this phenomenon. Moreover, no public institution has developed policies against sexual harassment in the workplace. 

As a result, only a small number of cases have come to the public attention, even though it is believed this phenomenon is widely spread. Only last year there was some news in the media regarding sexual harassment in public institutions, including the University of Pristina.

Women’s vulnerability is also confirmed by the official statistics for civil service, which show that women usually hold lower positions in this service, which makes them inferior to their male supervisors. Another indicator of sexual harassment that puts women at a disadvantage even before they are employed is the advertisements for job vacancies that are gender discriminatory.

Up to date, in the ministries or in their subordinate offices, there has been no report on the number of cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. It appears that the method of dealing with this problem is limited to the existence of some provisions in legislation, but there is no concrete step to address it or any internal regulation that lays down disciplinary measures in accordance with the laws or even any policy that would prevent sexual harassment at work. There is silence. Meanwhile research data proves the existence of sexual harassment at work.

There are few proper and systemic studies of working conditions and gender relations in the workplace and working conditions in private or public enterprises. If we want to analyse the situation of women and men in the labour market, we cannot rely on two indicators of employment and unemployment also. Although these are two very important indicators, they should be supplemented by indicators that measure whether international standards regarding working conditions are achieved.

A research that the Kosovar Center for Gender Studies has realized has shown the need for a law on sexual harassment in the workplace and the need to create policies against sexual harassment, which, until now has been limited to the existence of two related laws – the Law on Gender Equality and the Anti-Discrimination Law, which cannot replace a law dedicated to sexual harassment.

These two laws contain several provisions related to sexual harassment. For example, under the Law on Gender Equality (article 2.6): “Harassment and sexual harassment constitutes gender discrimination”. Further, article 2.7 states: “The harassment includes any form of behaviour that aim or represents a threat to personal dignity”.

Also in this law (article 2.8) gives the definition of sexual harassment which “includes any form of unwanted sexual behaviour verbal or non-verbal, physical or symbolic that at the same time aims or represents violation of personal dignity”.

Anti-Discrimination Law in article 3/c determines the definition of harassment as follows: “Harassment is discrimination, within the meaning of article 2a, when an unwanted behaviour (including but not limited to unwanted behaviour of sexual and/or psychological nature), which is based on one or more basis described in article 2 a, has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment,  as determined by that person”.

Law on Gender Equality (LGE) in Kosovo provides punitive provisions for its transgressions. In case of dismissal of an employee, if he/she requests the application of this law or dismissal from work, temporary suspension from work, injustice regarding work safety, working conditions or the recognition of his/her work as a result of his/her complaint for sexual harassment or discrimination based on gender, then the employer can be punished by a fine of 5 to 10 thousand euros, while the person responsible, fined from 1 to 3 thousand euros (article 16, paragraph 3 – Punitive Provisions, LGE).

So, even though the new legal system of Kosovo, adopted by the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, takes into account international conventions and resolutions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which is included in the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo, it has not been reported yet on the level of implementation of this Convention. Also, despite the fact that Kosovo legislation has clearly defined sexual harassment in the workplace, institutions and organizations, be it in the private or public sector, have not adopted policies to prevent this type of harassment.

The Agency for Gender Equality and the Office for Good Governance, Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Gender Issues within the Office of the Prime Minister have the duty to supervise and coordinate law enforcement and policies against sexual harassment in Kosovo institutions.  

But there is the need to improve the legal framework with better laws, with additional regulations or administrative guidelines, even with mechanisms to supervise and evaluate the implementation of the legislation.

Adapted from the report "Perceptions of Civil Servants in Kosovo regarding Sexual arassment"
Kosovar Center for Gender Studies
Prishtina, 2015