Greece to toughen penalties for sexual offences following #MeToo allegations

Greece is set to toughen the penalties for sexual offences and will launch a special website for reporting abuse in the wake of the Greek #MeToo Movement, which started in mid-January, when allegations from an Olympic sailing champion surfaced of sexual abuse committed by a former sporting official.

“We must further strengthen our legal arsenal for the just punishment of those guilty of past and present crimes, but above all in order to prevent the crimes of the future,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in Parliament on Thursday.

A draft bill, which will soon be submitted to the lawmakers, foresees that the statute of limitations is suspended until an underage victim reaches adulthood, the Greek leader said.

Currently in Greece, there is a 15-year statute of limitations and abusers of minors face up to 15 years in prison.

Furthermore, a registry of all professionals who come into contact with children and adolescents, such as coaches and employees in summer camps and refugee centers, will be established.

Between 2016 and 2020, a total of 822 cases of rape on minors and adults were reported to the authorities, Greek police spokeswoman Ioanna Rotziokou said on social media this week. The younger the victims are the more difficult reporting becomes, she added.

Sixty-five percent of women in Greece have suffered sexual harassment, according to a recent survey. Fear and humiliation force many victims to stay silent, women and men who spoke out lately explained.

Greek Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou was the first to talk publicly on Jan. 16 about her sexual harassment by a former sporting official 23 years ago.

A wave of revelations about chronic abuse in Greece’s sports and arts world followed, shocking the public.

As part of efforts to strengthen the institutions to address the phenomenon more effectively from now on, the government has also decided to launch the website, where complaints about all types of harassment and abuse can be submitted and victims will be supported to find justice and heal wounds, Mitsotakis said.

“Together we break the silence. You are no longer alone” is the main slogan in a video presenting the initiative, which the Greek premier posted on his social media accounts.

Meanwhile, former National Theater artistic director Dimitris Lignadis, who has been arrested on rape charges, testified before an investigating magistrate here on Thursday.

Two lawsuits were filed against Lignadis last week by two men, who accuse him of sexual abuse. In one case the alleged victim, who is now 25 years old, testified that Lignadis abused him when he was 14.

Lignadis’ lawyer, Alexis Kougias, said that his client denies all allegations.

Lignadis resigned from his post of artistic director on Feb. 6, when a series of allegations against him were published in local media.

His case is one of the over 1,000 complaints made by female and male artists in the past few weeks to the Hellenic Actors’ Union as part of an internal disciplinary inquiry.

Paschalis Tsarouchas, chairman of the union’s disciplinary council, submitted on Wednesday the files to an Athens prosecutor.

“We hope for the best outcome of these cases. We have committed to enrich the files with any new information we receive,” Tsarouchas told journalists outside the prosecutor’s office.