The Joint Select Committee appointed to consider the Sexual Harassment Bill, has recommended that the time limit for the reporting of an incident of sexual harassment should be six years.
This was disclosed by Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, as she opened the debate on the Report in the House of Representatives on July 6.
“Further, the Committee recommends that the Sexual Harassment Tribunal be empowered to enlarge time – which means, granting permission to a complainant who complains out of time, to bring his or her matter to the Tribunal. Such permission should only be granted once the complainant can give reason as to why the complaint was not made in time,” Ms. Grange said.
The committee also addressed the need to maintain a confidential register of sexual harassment cases.
“This is so, as many complaints of sexual harassment are often made internally before any judicial involvement arises. Under this legislation, an employer or a person in charge of an institution has a duty to keep and maintain a register,” Ms. Grange noted.
Such a register will detail all information relative to a sexual harassment complaint to include the name of the parties to the sexual harassment claim, the particulars of the sexual harassment claim, the date on which the sexual harassment claim was lodged, any action taken by the employer or person in charge of an institution in relation to the sexual harassment claim, and such other particulars relating to the sexual harassment claim as may be prescribed.
“An employer and person in charge of an institution shall ensure that the information contained in the register is kept in a secure manner and that the confidentiality of the information is preserved,” Ms. Grange said.
The committee further recommended that all the necessary and appropriate measures must be taken to protect the information contained in the register from unauthorised access, use and disclosure.
“No person shall disclose information, which is recorded in the register, in relation to a sexual harassment claim, unless the disclosure is made with lawful authority,” the Minister said.
The Committee also agreed to widen the categories of persons that can be sexually harassed.
“The Committee agreed that sexual harassment can be perpetuated by clients, from one student to another, and that employers can be harassed by employees,” Ms. Grange informed.
In her contribution to the debate, Member of Parliament for East Rural St. Andrew, the Most Hon. Juliet Holness, urged Jamaicans to embrace the necessary cultural shift that “this legislation brings, in the interest of protecting the vulnerable and in making our professional spaces more civilised, while at the same time, being sensitive to some of the cultural nuances of our communication style as a people”.
The Report of the Joint Select Committee appointed to consider The Sexual Harassment Act, 2020 was approved by the House of Representatives.
The initially proposed Sexual Harassment Bill was withdrawn and the Sexual Harassment Protection and Prevention Act, 2021, which incorporates all the recommendations proposed by the Joint Select Committee, was tabled.