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Core Elements of Sexual Harassment Laws

Sexual harassment can occur in multiple contexts and legislation should comprehensively address each of these in order to fully protect the rights of women and girls. This module includes specific information about harassment in employment, education, sports, housing, and provision of goods and services. In any context, however, laws prohibiting sexual harassment should include the following general components:

  • A statement of purpose, also known as a preamble, that references international, regional, and existing national protections against discrimination and violence against women;
  • A broad definition that includes examples of prohibited behavior;
  • Judicial and/or administrative procedures to enforce the prohibition on harassment, including confidential complaint procedures;
  • Provision for effective, proportionate compensation and/or reparation related to damages and losses suffered as a result of the harassment;
  • Dissuasive penalties for perpetrators;
  • Placing the burden of proof in civil proceedings on the alleged perpetrator, once a prima facie case is made;
  • Protections against retaliation;
  • Guidance for interpretation of the law;
  • Measures for prevention such as policy development, including confidential complaint procedures, and training;
  • Designated oversight body with the power to enforce the law, provide assistance to victims, collect data, and publish appropriate reports.

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