But criticism of The Body Shop’s book intensified online after two women publicly alleged – in interviews with Georgian newsrooms On.ge and Netgazeti – that they had been sexually harassed by another of the authors, Giorgi Kekelidze.
One of these women, Tao Chalidze, accused Kekelidze of “stalking” her “vigorously” for more than two years. She said she blocked him on social media and on her phone, but he would show up at her workplace unannounced.
“He would continuously try to pressure me into having sex with him, even though I told him I wasn’t interested,” Chalidze told On.ge. “I was so disgusted by his actions, that even today my body shivers just remembering him.”
Another woman, Sofia Kenchiashvili, told On.ge that for years Kekelidze had demanded she send him “erotic photos”, including when she was pregnant. “He would continuously ask me on Messenger how I was, and I knew the second question would be ‘Where is the photo?’ It went on for years,” she said.
In response, Georgia’s deputy public defender, Ekaterine Skhiladze, told openDemocracy that officials are “ready to study cases of [alleged] sexual harassment if victims are willing to submit application to our office”.
On Facebook, Kekelidze said he is a human being who makes “mistakes”, but that he feels “sick to my stomach that my flirting could have been badly interpreted or caused unintentional harm,” and apologises if this has been the case.
Kekelidze has not responded to openDemocracy requests for comment on this article. In response to Netgazeti earlier this week, he said that he was not yet ready to make any additional statements beyond this Facebook post.
Founded in the 1970s in Brighton, England, The Body Shop has thousands of stores around the world promising ethical and sustainable beauty products. In Georgia, a local pharmacy company operates the brand under a franchise agreement.
While The Body Shop Georgia has said it wants to continue publishing stories and to “convey our message [of women’s empowerment] more clearly”, it has not yet responded publicly to the accusations of sexual harassment against Kekelidze.
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