News

Reports of same-sex harassment not uncommon

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

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As the debate on sexual harassment in the workplace takes on new life, several high-ranking officials have noted that males and females are being sexually harassed by members of their own genders, but most opt not to go public out of sheer shame.

“Men experience harassment. What we have found is that men are reporting that they are experiencing same-sex harassment as well as harassment from females who sometimes have come into positions of power, meaning they are supervisors and bosses and so on, and they are harassing them. They also experience harassment from their peers, same rank and below,” senior director at the Bureau of Gender Affairs Sharon Coburn Robinson told journalists during this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's Corporate Area offices yesterday.

Coburn Robinson said some individuals have refrained from making formal complaints in cases “because they are fearful of repercussions”.

“It is happening, but the reports are not being made; the reporting is not taking place,” Georgette Grant, legal officer at the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, said in supporting Coburn Robinson's statement.

Associate counselling psychologist and chair of JamPsych Rosemarie Voordouw said while figures to support the claims are lacking, situations exist.

“I don't have statistics to say it is growing, but it is going to exist as much there are persons with different sexual orientations within the workplace… not because someone is of a certain sexual orientation means they will behave a certain way,” she noted.

In the meantime, she said 75 per cent of men within the context of heterosexual harassment say they were unaware that their actions towards their female counterparts were seen as harassment.

“They see it as hunting. That is why education is so important to understand what is right and what is not,” she told the Monday Exchange.

Attorney-at-law Kwame Gordon, who was among the panellists, said while he has had few such complaints, there are some that stand out.

“I remember a particular complaint where the female victim was being harassed by her female boss and it was interesting. In her experience, the female boss was more aggressive than any male who had harassed her in the past. She was quite disturbed and she resigned and moved on to something else. So it does happen, but the incidents aren't frequent,” he said.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange in July this year tabled the long-awaited Sexual Harassment Bill which is now being considered by a joint select committee of Parliament. The Bill originated as a response to calls over the decades to address sexual harassment concerns in the work environment and other spaces. It outlines the types of conduct that constitute sexual harassment and prohibits certain related conduct and further provides for complaints to be made by aggrieved individuals to a newly created Sexual Harassment Tribunal. It also makes the offence gender neutral.


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