The Bureau of Gender Affairs has commenced sensitisation sessions to educate Jamaicans about aspects of the proposed Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act 2021.
This was stated by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith while opening the debate on the Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act 2021 in the Upper House on Friday (September 17).
“The Bureau of Gender Affairs has already been going to different institutions, sharing information about the Bill even before it passes and that will be ramped up after its passage,” she said.
The legislation is aimed at combatting sexual harassment in Jamaica.
The Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act contains provisions for dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, schools, correctional institutions, places of safety, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric facilities, among other places.
The legislation also requires that institutions have in place a sexual harassment policy statement within 12 months of its implementation.
She said the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport through the Bureau of Gender Affairs are in discussions to provide simplified models of the policy statement for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
She explained that a sexual advance includes any form of conduct or behaviour that could be a demand or request for sex or favours of a sexual nature; the making of sexual suggestions, remarks or innuendos; the showing of pornography or display of images or objects of a sexual nature and any other physical gesture, verbal/nonverbal or visual conduct of a sexual nature.
The Minister explained that sexual harassment is not just an unwelcome sexual advance. She noted that sexual harassment means the making of any sexual advance towards a person by another person which is regarded as offensive or humiliating by the person towards whom it is made; or which has the effect of interfering with the work performance of the person to whom the advance is made; or creating an intimidating offensive or hostile working environment. References to the term sexually harassed shall be construed accordingly.
“All the circumstances must be taken into consideration. There is no intention for this to be any sort of extreme interpretation of what an unwelcome advance will be, all the circumstances must be considered.
“It must be considered whether the act, conduct or behaviour was a course of conduct, is this something that is repeated all the time or is it a single instance or… if it is a single instance, is it of such significance that it rises to the level of sexual harassment,” she reasoned.
The Act does not apply to persons below the age of 16.
The debate in the Senate on the Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act was suspended until October 1.