The Sexual Harassment Act is long overdueMonday, July 26, 2021
WE Jamaicans should make ourselves familiar with The Sexual Harassment Act recently passed in the Lower House. It demands responsible steps by employers, managers and yes, employees. Too long have people passed off unwelcome advances and sexual innuendos as part of our culture when, in fact, this type of behaviour shows the most uncultured side of humans.
The clauses in the Act run counter to offensive lyrics that bombard the consciousness of young people, creating the “Ah nuh nutten' attitude when people in the workplace — men as well as women — complain about the vulgar behaviour of those who are supervisors, managers, or co-workers.
Part 1, the preliminary section of the Act, makes clear these definitions: '“Sexual advance” means any one or more of the following acts, forms of conduct or behaviour, namely (a) physical contact of a sexual nature; (b) a demand or request for favours of a sexual nature; (c) the making of sexually coloured remarks, or sexual advances, sexual suggestions or sexual innuendos; (d) the showing of pornography or the display of images or objects of a sexual nature; and (e) any other physical, gestural, verbal, non-verbal or visual conduct of a sexual nature.
“Sexual harassment” means the making of any sexual advance towards a person, by another person, which is reasonably regarded as unwelcome, offensive or humiliating by the person towards whom the sexual advance is made.
Attorneys-at-law Gavin Goffe and Matthew Royal sounded a note of caution in the Legal Notes column in last Wednesday's Jamaica Observer, sharing that new guidelines may have to be set for the Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT): “Because the Labour Relations Code is not a comprehensive guide and gives only minimal guidance on due process, the IDT has been forced to create its own set of rules to protect workers from unjustifiable dismissals. Unfortunately, those rules, which are not written anywhere, are often incompatible with the provisions of the Bill, such that employers will likely have to choose which set to follow.”
They fear that, like previous instances when people who are clearly guilty have got off scot-free after taking their cases to the IDT, harassment cases could face the same challenge. We may have to go the extra mile to ensure that there is no neutering of the Act.
Grateful thanks to Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange for piloting this Bill through the House. Much of the preparation was done by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica committee members such as the late Greta Bogues and Mariame McIntosh Robinson (co-chairs), Lisa Soares-Lewis, Dr Leith Dunn, Dr Denise Chevannes-Vogel, Patricia Francis, Ayana Thomas, Lisa Johnston, Thalia Lyn, and Gavin Goffe.
The news last week that a four-year-old was allegedly beaten to death by his stepfather shook us. As someone who had the blessing of a caring stepfather, I ask that we do not start looking askance at the good men who have been excellent guardians of their stepchildren.
Having listened to the distraught mother of four-year-old Nashawn Brown, who was pronounced dead after he was allegedly beaten for eating too slowly, we must contemplate the plight of too many Jamaican women who are kept captive by their abusive partners. According to reports, little Nashawn had complained about not feeling well, and was beaten for two hours. His mother, it is said, was also beaten when she tried to intervene.
Jamaica's Child Care and Protection Act demands that even if one only suspects a case of child abuse, one must, under the law, report it to the police. The many heartbreaking reports of child abuse are a call for us to be more observant of the behaviour of people and of the appearance of children in our community.
Commenting on the incident in the House, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said he would be calling for legislation which would ban the use of corporal punishment to discipline children.
Several studies have shown that people who have been subjected to extreme corporal punishment, such as children, become violent as adults. Now, many of us have been subjected to corporal punishment and we have lived to laugh about it. However, the type of punishment that is being meted out to innocent children has reached a level that demands the ban. This should be accompanied by compulsory training for parents on alternative means of disciplining children.
“Give a man an inch and he will take a mile” is the old proverb. Trying to give more time for earning opportunities, the Government lessened curfew hours, but the irresponsibility of our citizens is threatening to cause a third spike. This creates a dilemma for the Government as we try to get our children back to face-to-face classes and fully reopen the country.
The level of ignorance about the novel coronavirus and vaccinations is being heightened by the lies which have gone viral on social media. It was simply natural that we had to be vaccinated against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and tuberculosis. Schools demanded vaccination certificates when we registered our children. Vaccination saves lives — straight and simple. Now, even teachers and front line workers are opposed to taking the COVID-19 vaccine. Further, some who have taken the first dose are resisting the second, which is necessary for them to have full immunity.
Seniors over 60, who have been fully vaccinated, are grateful to Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke for the $10,000 incentive he has offered to them. Jamaica Information Service has advised that “to apply, persons aged 60 and over will need to log on to www.wecare.gov.jm and provide their first and last names, tax registration number (TRN) and or their Government-issued identification, date of birth, mobile telephone number to which they have access, an e-mail address, and the vaccination type and batch numbers. They will also be required to submit their preferred method of payment, whether commercial bank account or remittance agency”.
When the over one million vaccines arrive in August, every one of us should make it our business to convince at least one person to get vaccinated. It may mean setting up the appointment and accompanying them to the clinic. The authorities have been doing their best; however, nothing will change if we do not take personal responsibility for our health and that of our families.
After much speculation as to whether it would happen, the Tokyo Olympics is on, and Jamaicans everywhere have our sights set on our competitors in track and field, swimming, and gymnastics. Most of all, we hold our breaths for the women's 100m event, when the fastest woman alive, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, may become the first woman to triumph in that event for three straight Olympics. There are also high hopes for the gold in the women's 4x100m relay, and we should not count out Yohan Blake who has been doing promising times for the men's 100m. Top swimmer Alia Atkinson, who has excelled in so many other international events, will once again try for an Olympic medal.
We also wish the best for our Reggae Boyz as they gear up to compete against the USA in Texas on Tuesday in the Concacaf Gold Cup quarter finals.
Let us send our positive vibrations across the seas — one love, one heart for our Jamaican competitors.
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