The strengthening and passing of Sexual Harassment Legislation in Jamaica
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Sexual harassment is an issue that has been under-reported and ignored for far too long. It continues to be treated in a blasé fashion by our policymakers, while being recognised by international instruments as a form of violence and has serious negative effects for people who have experienced it.
However, despite its prevalence and calls for local legislation, there still exists no legal protection and provisions for persons who are sexually harassed. The National Policy for Gender Equality (NPGE) recommends that mechanisms be created to allow persons to report sexual harassment.
However, in December 2015, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller tabled the Sexual Harassment Bill in Parliament to outlaw sexual intimidation, coercion and pestering in the workplace, institutions and in landlord-tenant relationships. The proposed legislation allows victims of sexual harassment to be compensated for their feelings of discomfort and humiliation. Sexual harassment is defined in the Bill as the making of any sexual advance towards a person, by another person, which is reasonably regarded as unwelcome, offensive or humiliating by the person towards whom the advancement is made.
While the Bill seeks to protect people who have experienced sexual harassment and includes a provision to ensure employers provide a safe space - free of harassment for employees, and outlines that a Sexual Harassment Division be created at the Industrial Disputes Tribunal to hear cases in the workplace, the following also needs to be taken into consideration:
1. Strengthen the Bill to address sexual harassment outside of the workplace, institutions and landlord-tenant relationships;
2. Treat with greater importance the issue of sexual harassment and include harsher penalties;
3. Develop mechanisms to ensure people who are sexually harassed can get support;
4. Undertake a national public education campaign around sexual harassment that would raise awareness and help in reducing its incidence
Help us lobby the government to ensure that the Sexual Harassment Bill is passed and that the public is sufficiently educated about harassment and the importance of this Bill, as well as the need to report cases of its kind.
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