Overview and Core Elements of Laws on Sexual Harassment in Provision of Goods and Services

Legislation prohibiting the sexual harassment of women and girls in the course of accessing goods and services is also an important area to consider for legislation. The European Union has been proactive in this regard, through the issuance of Directive 2004/113/EC, implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services. This directive specifies that sexual harassment in the provision of goods and services is a form of prohibited discrimination.

The European Union directive covers many of the key areas that should be included in legislation, including:

  • Ensuring that judicial and/or administrative procedures are in place to enforce the prohibition on discrimination/harassment;
  • Provision for effective, proportionate compensation and/or reparation related to damages and losses suffered as a result of the harassment and provision for dissuasive penalties for perpetrators;
  • Placing the burden of proof in civil proceedings on the alleged perpetrator;
  • Protections against retaliation;
  • Provision for dialogue with key stakeholders;
  • Ensuring that a designated governmental body has oversight of the issue and has the power to provide assistance to victims, to collect data, and to publish appropriate reports on the topic; and
  • Ensuring that the prohibition of sexual harassment applies to both public and private interactions involving the provision of goods and services.

Models and examples for drafting specific provisions on each of the above principles can be adapted from laws in the employment or anti-discrimination context.