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New Sexual Harassment Bill expected by month end

Thursday, June 13, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — A new Sexual Harassment Bill is likely to be tabled in the House of Representatives within the next two weeks.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia “Babsy' Grange, said that if possible, the bill could be tabled as early as next Tuesday.

“It was approved by the Legislation Committee of the Cabinet a week ago, and a draft has already been prepared,” she said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday, that it was among a number of legislations that the government has drafted to address decent work agenda issues, including special training modalities and apprenticeship initiatives for employment, as well as occupational safety and health hazards, gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

He said that the Sexual Harassment Bill being produced by his government is primarily aimed at protecting the women from violence, harassment and discriminatory practices at the workplace.

Holness was among a number of world leaders who expressed strong support for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as it marked its 100th anniversary at the 108th session of the ILC, focusing on the future of work and discussing violence and harassment at the workplace.

However, Grange confirmed that the provisions of the new bill are expected to extend to protect men, as well, but will focus on persons engaged at the workplace, or wherever they live or are accommodated.

Grange told OBSERVER ONLINE yesterday that the government has discarded some of the proposals which were included in a sexual harassment bill which was tabled by former Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, in 2015, but never went beyond tabling.

According to her, efforts to legislate on sexual harassment in Jamaica dates back to 2011, when the then JLP cabinet approved a policy plan, which included the establishment of an independent tribunal to arbitrate on the issues.

The 2015 bill, however, changed the focus to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) and substituted a panel of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) to arbitrate the cases. That has since been changed back to the original proposal and to Grange's ministry.

The Sexual Harassment Act is not to be confused with the Sexual Offences Act which deals with issues like rape and sexual grooming. However, some provisions of the new Act are expected to repeal similar provisions in the older legislation.

Balford Henry

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