Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign Led by Local Media in Kazakhstan Leads to Demands for Policy Change

Last year, Internews’ partner Dobrye Vesti, an online platform, launched a campaign, in partnership with national media outlets, aimed at raising public awareness on the ubiquity of workplace-based sexual harassment and its impact on the status of women in Kazakhstan.

The KORGAU123 (DEFENSE123) campaign is named after Article 123 of Kazakhstan’s Criminal Code, the only existing legal provision that prevents sexual harassment in the workplace. In the last 20 years there have only been 25 convictions under this article. Due to social stigmatization, offenses are unreported, offenders go unpunished and victims remain traumatized, further contributing to ignorance and the denial of this pervasive issue.

According to the Office of the General Prosecutor, there were zero cases filed in court and zero people sent to prison for sexual harassment in the workplace between 2014-2017. Legal experts agree that this article needs revision and a wider spectrum of provisions regarding sexual harassment should be advocated for at the national level.

KORGAU123 produced special visual content including digital posters and infographics, as well as a series of interviews with rights activists and lawyers. The ready-made multimedia package was shared by all of Internews’ media partners in Kazakhstan, including regional television stations and online media outlets located in various regions of the country, ensuring the campaign’s wide reach.

“The media campaign on sexual harassment at work has brought media and civil society together on a scale that has never been seen before in the country,” says Zulfiya Baisakova, Head of the Crisis Centers Union, Kazakhstan. “It has inspired us to launch follow-up actions which are changing attitudes and may, as well, change laws.”

During the campaign, the number of Dobrye Vesti’s engaged users increased more than sixfold. The campaign also brought more than ten civil society groups and prominent public figures together to openly discuss sexual harassment in the workplace.

Civil society partners CSR Central Asia and the Crisis Centers Unionindependently organized a press conference and art exhibition, created a film recounting the stories of victims of sexual assault and launched a hotline to report cases of sexual harassment across the country. After the campaign ended, the partners also drafted a public petition listing proposed changes to the current legislation and called on the public to send letters to members of Parliament urging for a change in the law. The Crisis Centers Union and its partnering organizations across Kazakhstan distributed a total of 5,000 template cards to facilitate the petition campaign.

Internews’ work in Kazakhstan is supported by USAID.

(Banner image: Awareness raising poster produced and disseminated as part of the KORGAU123 campaign against sexual harassment at work, Photo © Select Communication Group)