Sexual Harassment Bill Modified to Reflect Current Realities

Photo: Donald De La Haye Acting Senior Director of Policy and Research at the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Sharon Robinson (second right), addressing the ParlAmericas Inter-Parliamentary workshop at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on January 25. Others (from right) are Dean, Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Rose-Marie Antoine; Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, Canada, Joyce Murray; and Regional Project Director for the IMPACT justice programme, Velma Newton.

Acting Senior Director of Policy and Research at the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Sharon Robinson, says the sexual harassment Bill has been modified to reflect current realities.

 “We have had an opportunity… to look at whether or not the coverage was adequate or was there anything that we missed. There are some other things that we did not have in the first iteration that we were able to put in the second iteration, and, on top of that, between the time that the first Bill was sent and this second iteration, so many things have happened,” she said.

Ms. Robinson argued that with the #metoo movement and other campaigns that shine a light on sexual harassment “a lot more information is out there… so there is more expectation, and so, the Bill has to match the contextual reality and what is happening on the local, regional and international scene”.

She was representing Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, at the ParlAmericas Inter-Parliamentary workshop at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on January 25.

The sexual harassment legislation was taken off the parliamentary agenda with the calling of a General Election in February 2016.

Giving an update on the Bill last year, Minister Grange indicated that the draft was sent to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel where some amendments were made, and it is now to go before the Legislative Committee of Cabinet.

She said the amended Bill, once approved by Cabinet, will be brought back to Parliament “as we seek to protect all women and men from unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and crude sexual behaviours that affect quality of life by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment”.

Ms. Robinson said, “Certainly, from the position of the Gender Bureau, we are very anxious to have it approved, and we know how anxious the women’s groups are, because they have been partners on this from the very beginning and we know that this is something that has been important.”

In the meantime, she said while sexual harassment is gender-neutral, the research shows that women are the primary victims.

She noted, however, that in recent times, more men are reporting cases of sexual harassment.

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