BEIRUT: MP Ghassan Moukheiber, of the Change and Reform bloc, submitted an urgent draft law to criminalize sexual harassment and racist abuse to Parliament.
The draft bill comes in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against Beirut’s former governor, Nassif Qalloush, after a covertly filmed video implicating the official was published on YouTube.
“I have been working on the bill for over a year. ... After the governor’s incident, I realized that the law was unable to handle such case,” he said. “The bill would help.”
The draft law suggests a penalty of three months to one year in prison and a fine that can reach 10 times the minimum wage in Lebanon for sexual or racial harassment.
Sexual harassment, according to the law, includes shocking acts, offhand comments, unwelcomed sexual advances and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
The penalty could be worse if the victim of the harassment is a minor or a person with special needs or if the harassment takes place at a workplace, according to the draft law.
“Civil servants can face termination from their jobs according to the law if it is proven that they have been making improper sexual advances or exerting pressure on employees for sexual aims,” Moukheiber said.
“Private sector employers would also face charges,” the MP said, adding that “private firms should also include articles criminalizing sexual harassments in their internal system.”
Mokhaiber said that the bill would complement the recent law against domestic violence endorsed by Parliament, and he was upbeat that lawmakers would support his proposal.
“I expect Parliament to discuss the bill because it goes with the flow of the conservative attitude of Lebanese society,” he said.
Last month, Parliament approved a law aimed at protecting women from domestic violence, but the move drew criticism from activists, who protested several amendments made to the text.
The draft law to protect women from domestic violence was first submitted to the Parliament in 2010, and a parliamentary subcommittee began studying it in May 2011 and finalized its amendments in August 2012.
The amendments altered the title of the text to refer to violence against the family as opposed to violence against women specifically. A key clause criminalizing marital rape was also removed by the committee, after it sparked a backlash from religious figures and some politicians.
Sexual harassment is not currently criminalized under the Lebanese law.