Bullying at school, at work, and in the army is set to be criminalised, after a law was tabled by House speaker Annita Demetriou and Akel MP Andreas Pasiourtides.
Should the bill pass into law, offenders will face up to a year in prison or a fine of €2,000.
The bill says “school bullying is defined as the persistent and intentional exercise of psychological violence by one or more students in a school or other related area at the expense of a student who becomes a target, which may also include the exercise of physically abusive behaviour.”
It adds that bullying can also include the spreading of malicious rumours, the publication of the victim’s personal data, threats or blackmail, the theft of personal items, hitting, pushing, biting, malicious teasing, the use of abusive expressions, or the taunting of the victim’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender orientation, or other characteristic.
Criminal proceedings would be brought against school bullies aged 14 and above.
In addition, the law proposes to criminalise workplace bullying and bullying in the army.
According to the bill, workplace bullying can entail mobbing and gaslighting among other forms of bullying.
Children’s charity Hope for children said “it is important to strengthen programmes and mechanisms for intervention against and prevention of violent behaviour among children.”
They expressed “deep concern about the depth of the problem of violence in recent years”, and said “violent incidents highlight even more the need to arm school communities with specialised personnel as well as the appropriate tools for the purpose of prevention, timely intervention, and effective management.”
Additionally, they said they focus on the protection of all children involved in such issues, including those who are bullies, saying the “psychological and social effects [of bullying] are harmful for all involved.”
Hope for children also operates a counselling helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week free of charge. The helpline’s number is 1466.
In addition, they also operate the 116 111 adolescent support line alongside the association for the prevention and handling of violence in the family (Spavo). Young people can call the number free and anonymously for guidance and psychological support services.