July 14, 2021
MINISTER of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange yesterday urged Jamaicans to bear in mind that the new Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act, 2021 Bill will not be partial to anyone.
She asked the country to note that the new Bill, which replaces a former Bill that had been tabled by former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in 2015, is not partial to any gender, because the violation is not limited to one gender.
“Men and women experience sexual harassment, and it is against this background that the Bill before the House is gender-neutral and seeks to protect and prevent sexual harassment against both men and women,” she said.
She said that when the Bill becomes law, it will deal a blow to sexual harassment by bringing relief to victims and punishment to perpetrators, while acting as a deterrent to others.
The Bill was passed with 10 amendments; however, none of those amendments affected the clauses which were most controversial, including: the early 18-month review of its performance; a six-year limit on cases; a widened victim landscape, including employers who harass their employees; and for institutions to produce a sexual harassment policy statement within 12 months of its implementation.
“This Bill is new and improved and the improvements have birthed a more robust legislation,” Grange told the House.
Speaking in the debate, Opposition spokesman Mikael Phillips urged members to do everything in their power to ensure that while the Bill is not a panacea to address what is an increasing problem in the Jamaican workplace and other institutions, it offers hope to victims that their complaints will be addressed.
Phillips also urged the Government to ensure that the disabled community is not disadvantaged by any of the provisions within the Act, and that it reflects standards contained in the long delayed Disabilities Act, as well.
He said that, although there is no data locally to show how sexual harassment affects productivity, there are linkages between productivity and safe working environments, based on international studies.
“Therefore, I am happy that the Government has prioritised passing this Bill into law,” he added, while commending Grange, and members of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) which reviewed the draft Bill, and individuals and organisations who made submissions.
The Bill will now be sent to the Senate for its approval, which seems to be assured by the bipartisan support exhibited in the House.