Addressing Sexual Harassment in Public Universities

Deputy Chief of Mission Hyland’s remarks at the panel discussion on “Addressing Sexual Harassment in Public Universities”, March 8, 2017

Good morning and Happy International Women’s Day to you all. It’s my pleasure to celebrate with you today, but, more importantly to highlight this very important discussion on sexual harassment in Kosovo’s public universities.

I would like to thank the panelists and the organizers, especially Zana, for your hard work on this project. The U.S. Embassy is proud to support this project through our Democracy Commission Small Grants Program.

We support projects like this because we want to make sure that Kosovo is moving forward. When we talk about progress here, one thing is clear: we cannot guarantee the full participation of women in government, business and civil society without an active, vocal, organized group of empowered women leaders advocating for their place at the table.

Kosovo has had some great successes: the election of the first woman president and the first woman mayor, who remain strong role models for all women. We’ve also see the advancement of women in the Kosovo Police and the Kosovo Security Force.

But this brings me back to one of the issues that you all are here to discuss today—women in Kosovo cannot advance without the opportunity to get an education in an environment where they are treated fairly and equally.

In the United States, we’re struggling with this issue, too. We have had a federal law in place since 1972 called “Title IX”, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities, and defines sexual harassment or sexual violence as forms of discrimination.

Since 1972, this law has evolved to the point where now, every school in the United States is required by law to have a designated employee who coordinates compliance with Title IX. Additionally, it requires that each school must have publically documented procedures for reporting and handling claims of sex discrimination.

These are very important steps to ensure that there is a system in place to protect the rights of all students. But, unfortunately, they are still not enough to prevent all discrimination.  Our Department of Education currently has nearly 300 ongoing investigations into how colleges and universities handle sex discrimination cases.

This is unacceptable in the United States, and it should be unacceptable here in Kosovo.

Simply put, sexual harassment and sexual violence have no place in Kosovo’s institutions, its universities or its society.

I’m glad that you are addressing this important issue today, and I hope that the government and its academic institutions take this report and its recommendations seriously.

In a broader sense, I also hope that this International Women’s Day will encourage all of you—men and women across Kosovo– to show your support and to encourage positive change.

The change you make is not only for the women of today, but for the women of tomorrow and for the future of Kosovo. Thank you.