'Safe at Work' to boost harassment awareness

  • 2006-03-08
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - The Lithuanian Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman reported this week that, compared with its closest neighbors Latvia and Poland, Lithuania has the best legal base against sexual harassment at work. The office cited a preventive project against sexual abuse of women titled "Safe at Work carried out in Eastern and Central Europe."

"In Lithuania, compared with its closest neighbors, women who have experienced sexual harassment can indeed protect their rights better. However, in order to truly protect their rights, it is necessary to create not only an effective legal base, but also raise society's consciousness," a press release cited Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Ausrine Burneikiene as saying.

The information campaign Safe at Work will be conducted in Lithuania as well as other Eastern and Central European countries in March in an effort to raise society's consciousness and change people's mentality.

During the information campaign, women will be provided with free consultations at the Social Responsibility Center and acquainted with sexual harassment problems arising at work.

"Safe at Work" will also be implemented in Poland, Latvia, Finland and Greece by March.

The concept of sexual harassment was defined in Lithuania in 1998, when the Law on Equal Opportunities of Women and Men was passed, enabling women to lodge complaints over sexual abuse at work with the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman.

Meanwhile, it was only in 2004 that Poland passed the first law regulating the phenomenon of sexual harassment at work. Latvian laws regulating labor relations do not define the concept of sexual harassment at all.

In Lithuania, sexual harassment is considered a violation of human dignity - one of the fundamental human rights set forth in the Constitution.

Sexual harassment is defined as offensive conduct of a sexual nature - verbal or physical - toward a person when such behavior is aimed at harming the person's dignity, especially when creating a threatening, hostile, humiliating or offensive environment.