Sexual Harassment Bill inching along

Sexual Harassment Bill inching along

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, October 31, 2020

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MINISTER of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange has informed the newly reassigned members of a joint select committee tasked with piloting the long-awaited Sexual Harassment Bill through the House of Representatives that she is looking forward to robust discussions during meetings.

The committee, which includes several newly elected Members of Parliament, resumed sitting on Thursday at Gordon House. Their goal is to have a report tabled in Parliament and approved before the end of the parliamentary year next March.

On Thursday, Grange noted that the legislation is necessary to address concerns about sexual harassment that is employment-related, occurring in institutions, or arising in landlord/tenant relationships.

The Bill, which addresses sexual harassment of both males and females, speaks to basically two categories: making unwelcome sexual advances which are reasonably offensive or humiliating; and interfering unreasonably with work performance or creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment.

It speaks to physical contact of a sexual nature; demand or request for sex or favours of a particular nature; making sexual suggestions, remarks or innuendoes; showing of pornography and any other physical gestures; as well as verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a particular nature.

Grange explained that it was necessary to make those conditions clear in order to counter misunderstandings that still exist within the society about what constitutes sexual harassment and what the Bill intends to achieve.

“For too long many victims have been left without recourse, [having] to first cower in shame and [then] retreat to the halls of silence,” she told the meeting.

Based on a proposal from Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck, the committee agreed to a three-week suspension of meetings to allow new members to acquaint themselves with the 11 presentations of submissions which took place in six months of meetings between November 2019 and July 2020, as well as another 17 submissions which have not yet been heard in meetings.

They agreed to resume on November 12 and meet each Thursday until December 10. No meeting has been scheduled for next week so as to accommodate the People's National Party presidential election scheduled for November 7.

President of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union Senator Kavan Gayle urged the committee to ensure that the Jamaica Employers' Federation responds to its request to make an appearance before the meetings end.

“It is important to hear the views and expressions of the employers. We cannot afford to have them fail to make a presentation before we close,” Senator Gayle said.

Grange responded that they would be invited to the next meeting.


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