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Georgian Court Upholds First Sexual Harassment Ruling

Georgian journalist and actress Tatia Samkharadze (file photo)
Georgian journalist and actress Tatia Samkharadze (file photo)

An appeals court in Georgia has upheld a landmark decision in what was billed as the Caucasus country’s first court case of sexual harassment.

Journalist and actress Tatia Samkharadze brought sexual harassment charges against her former boss at Imedi TV back in 2016, bringing the global #MeToo movement to this conservative Caucasus country.

A Tbilisi court ruled in her favor in January 2018, prompting the accused Shalva Ramishvili, who denied any wrongdoing, to appeal the ruling.

An appeals court in Tbilisi on December 12 ruled in favor of Samkharadze.

Women's rights activists welcomed the appeals court decision as a huge victory, describing it as a "landmark case on workplace sexual harassment in Georgia."

Samakharadze said her career essentially came to an end when she sued Ramishvili in 2016. She told the BBC that she became the victim of cyberbullying.

During court proceedings, Samkharadze’s lawyers presented audio recordings of conversations between the reporter and Ramishvili.

Samakharadze said she decided to record the talks as the sexual harassment showed no signs of stopping.

In its January ruling, the court ordered Ramishvili to pay court expenses, but dropped any monetary penalties.

Nevertheless, Georgian activists welcomed the court's willingness to consider the sexual harassment case as a breakthrough.

Baia Pataraia, a leading women's rights advocate and the executive director of the Sapari union at the time expressed hope that "this case will set a precedent for other victims of sexual harassment so that they won’t be afraid of filing lawsuits against their abusers."

"The most important part was that the court confirmed the fact of sexual harassment and imposed compensation for non-pecuniary damages…I think it’s important for any person who has ever faced such a problem,” Samkharadze said after the January ruling.

Under Georgian law, sexual harassment is not defined as a criminal act.

In October 2017, women’s rights activists registered a petition in the country's parliament to recognize sexual harassment as a form of discrimination.

Meanwhile, efforts are under way in the Georgian society to raise awareness on the issue.

The UN office in Georgia released an antiharassment TV spot earlier this year, encouraging women to speak out against harassment in the workplace.

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