Jamaica has adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for over 60 years. It is with this in mind that we ask the question proposed in the title. How is it that with the current situation regarding sexual harassment in workplaces worldwide and particularly in Jamaica, that we have not yet implemented official laws regarding sexual harassment, a fundamental human right, regardless of numerous attempts in the past decade to do so?
Sexual harassment, with regards to an office setting, is officially defined as ‘unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.’
Unfortunately, sexual harassment is a regular occurrence in today’s society. There are several reasons why sexual harassment is so prevalent. Some feel it is their right to ‘make passes’ and unsolicited advances at their co-workers, particularly subordinates. The victims of sexual harassment are most times too embarrassed or afraid to report these cases; they fear they will not be believed or protected. Also, many offices have established rules and policies regarding sexual harassment in the workplace but there have been numerous cases gone unreported because the people responsible for upholding these policies are the same ones breaking them.
The only way to really cull this behaviour and protect Jamaicans in the work environment is to establish an official legal policy regarding sexual harassment. Organizations such as Women’s Media Watch and the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, along with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture have made numerous attempts to have this bill passed that we can track back to as far as 2004. Their efforts have not been fruitful yet year after year the same headline reappears ‘Sexual Harassment Policy Soon to be Passed’ or some similar variation. It begs the question, 'Why hasn’t it been passed already?'
While we understand that there are certain steps a policy must go through and there may be some subjective elements to this particular statute or policy, it should be considered priority that sexual harassment becomes a law. The embarrassed and fearful need to know that there is a legal avenue to take when they choose to take a stand against this kind of behaviour in the workplace. But right now, most of them only suffer in silence.
What are your thoughts on the delayed passing of the sexual harassment policy in Jamaica? Share it with us