Representing the organisation, member Claudia Múrias said the Left Bloc’s proposal fell “well below” what was intended and to be voted upon requires at least 35,000 signatures.
UMAR has in the past spoken out in favour of criminalising sexual harassment but has faced opposition from several corners.
However, the Union stressed that while harassment may not currently be seen as a crime by the Penal Code, some of the acts that comprise harassment, such as threats and coercion, are and are also covered by the Labour Code.
The feminist organisation’s proposal was first formally presented to MPs of the Subcommittee for Equality in Parliament in April last year.
At the time UMAR president Maria José Magalhães said: “To criminalise for criminalising’s sake is not enough. It is important that Portuguese legislation gives the message that there are behaviours that aren’t acceptable, but criminalising won’t solve it. We need educational and protection measures for the victims.”
UMAR intends to take the matter a step further than criminalisation, by forcing companies to elaborate a professional ethical code of good practice on sexual harassment, which would permit “the arrest of the offender caught in the act” and reverse “the burden of proof” - contrary to the present law which implies that the victim must provide evidence.
In UMAR’s opinion “Any type of behaviour that humiliates people. Of a sexual nature, we’re talking about, for example, comments on physical appearance, invitations”, should be punishable.
Last year the Left Bloc drew up a bill based on proposals from UMAR and the victims’ support association APAV.
The bill aimed to classify sexual harassment, including verbal harassment and stalking as crimes.
Other majority parties also put forward proposals to criminalise stalking and forced marriages.