JIS News

In recent times, the alleged sexual harassment and rape of a police woman by her male counterpart, as well as her experience in seeking justice, has brought into sharp focus the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual harassment refers to unwanted sexual advances, whether verbal, physical or cyber/communication, such as e-mails, text/photo messages and graphics. It can range from subtle comments and behaviours to outright intimidation, exploitation and sexual assault.
According to Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, Faith Webster, it is an issue that merits the nation’s time and focussed consideration, given that it causes considerable emotional and psychological trauma to victims, especially those who suffer in silence and have no recourse to justice.
“Sexual harassment is really a very serious issue, but what we have found out is that it’s not one of the issues that is really talked about. It’s an issue which tends to have a shroud of silence behind it,” she says in an interview with JIS News.
“What we want individuals to realise, is that many women suffer in silence within the workplace, because of sexual harassment and if there is no policy or disciplinary committee or anything like that in place to address the issue, what you will find is that the person will not get any redress. Sometimes they are fired unjustly,” she adds.
The Executive Director notes that this can be a traumatic experience for victims who run into many emotional dead-ends, as they are forced to internalise the pain.
“This is a critical and a serious issue, which really affect women emotionally and psychologically in the workplace. They don’t want to come to work, because they fear that the person is going to harass them again, whether verbally, physically or through graphics, because we have the electronic system now, the e-mail etc,” she points out.
“Sometimes they are confused, bearing this burden, they feel embarrassment and shame,” Mrs. Webster laments, adding that some of them do not know what to do. “They are in a job which they need, because they have to help their families, and [so they wonder] if I say something to somebody else, what will happen,” she says.
One of the most vulnerable groups are new recruits at the workplace, especially young girls.
“What we find is that a lot of young girls are subject to sexual harassment upon leaving school, coming into the workplace quite vulnerable, na