THE gender ministry has been doing work towards the full implementation of sexual harassment legislation in Jamaica to address concerns about sexual harassment that is employment-related, occurring in institutions, or arising in the landlord and tenant relationship.
For too long sexual harassment has been par for the course in many organisations, with women having to silently tolerate unwanted male advances, or if they do report it, sometimes facing career and social backlash.
While women wait to be able to use the law to get recourse in instances of unwanted sexual advances, these three women share the horror stories that are part of many of their sisters' experiences with men in positions of trust.
Camille W, 28:
This wasn't at work, but I was in lower sixth form and he was my IT teacher. We were doing social studies exam for end of year, and he was invigilating. Back story: there had always been stories from other girls that he had been touchy-feely with them, but nobody ever reported him or anything. If anything, some girls crushed on him because he was probably the only good looking male teacher, and you know how girls get in all girls' schools. Anyway, I was sitting in the front row of the exam, with my legs crossed, doing my paper. Each time I'd look up he would be staring at me, but I assumed it was because he didn't want us cheating. But after the exam he collected our papers, then handed me a folded piece of paper and told me not to open it until I got home. I did, and when I opened it, it was a pencil drawing of me, in my uniform skirt, socks and shoes, and bra, but no blouse, doing the exam. His number was at the bottom, with an invite to call him if I was "brave enough". I didn't know what to think â€”the emotions ranged from flattered to flabbergasted. I didn't call him, but I kept the drawing for over a year after, until my mom saw it when I was preparing for college, and erupted. I think that's when I really understood how creepy it was. By that time both the teacher and I had left the school, so nothing could be done.
Melanie M, 40:
My colleagues and I used to joke around a lot and make raunchy jokes with each other, but it was all in jest, or so I thought. I wanted to be like one of the guys, so I'd laugh things off, and the guys weren't shy about making jokes around me or anything. But that's as far as it went, and we'd just go back to working afterwards. One day one of the guys sent me a message to meet him at the elevator on the ground floor as he had something to show me. I went, and we boarded the lift together, then he pushed the button to stop the elevator, then opened his pants and whipped it out while I stood there, mouth open in shock. He laughed and asked if I liked what I saw, but I couldn't even speak. He restarted the elevator and it got to our floor, where he just left before me, and allowed the people waiting to go down to board, like nothing happened. To this day I'm still in shock, but from that time I've avoided conversations with him like the plague.
I was bored with my life and wanted a change of pace. So I was browsing job sites when I saw a posting for a paid internship for a six-months post in a small island. I love to travel so I put my soul into the application and got through, and with the work permit processed, sold my stuff and left Jamaica because my intention was for those six months to lead to a long-term contract. Well, soon as I arrived I realised why the terms were so short. One of my bosses immediately started to put in the player boy work and was relentless about looking me. He'd make night outings look like work meetings, show up at my apartment with food, commented on what I wore to work and how it outlined my figure, and just generally made himself a nuisance, even though I kept subtly telling him to stop. Luckily Jamaicans are everywhere, and through the Jamaican expat association which I'd joined, I learned what a predator he was, and that he hired only young women, coerced them into being with him, and then sent them home when their 'internships' ended. With that knowledge I just quietly started to look for other opportunities, and when my contract ended I was able to move into another job there. I spent two years there before returning home. While Jamaica men can be worms and pushy, I found that none has compared to this man who was just looking to dooks off people's girl pickney.