NGO lobbies government to adopt sexual harassment law

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By Makeida Antonio

[email protected]

A local non-governmental organisation is putting pressure on the government to ratify an international law addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Violence and Harassment Convention (No. 190) and its accompanying Recommendation (No. 206) stipulates that everyone, regardless of gender, is entitled to a work life free of violence and harassment in the public and private sector, formal and informal economy, and urban and rural areas.

 According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) website, the Convention defines violence and harassment as “a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices, or threats thereof, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment”.

Women Against Rape (WAR) President Alexandrina Wong said her organisation has been working alongside the government to ensure that women who are gainfully employed in Antigua and Barbuda have a safe working environment.

“We have partnered with the Ministry of Labour over a period of time and we have developed a flyer which is currently on an electronic billboard on Old Parham Road and on Friars Hill Road.

“We are looking at violence and harassment in the workplace and we are asking our government to ratify the Convention,” Wong told Observer yesterday.

This advocacy activity is just one part of ongoing efforts by WAR to raise awareness of gender-based violence (GBV) in Antigua and Barbuda during the 16 Days of Activism which began on November 25 and will end on December 10.

Wong provided some background which highlights the significance of the annual period in the organisation’s calendar of events.

“The 16 Days of Activism is a period that is dedicated towards raising awareness against violence against women and girls, how it can be prevented, how it can be managed with the ultimate aim of eliminating it in some point in time,” she said.

Wong also indicated that education, training and consistent campaigning are being pushed by NGOs globally to eliminate violence against women and girls.

“Currently, according to the development goals, we are looking at better outcomes and results by 2025 or 2030.

“Organisations globally are ramping up whatever they have been doing throughout the year. For organisations such as Women Against Rape, 16 Days of Activism is just one of the periods when we would highlight the awareness of the education, training and campaigning in a way to remind the persons of our social obligations to self, to family and society,” she explained.

WAR has extended gratitude to its regional and global partners who have given much needed financial assistance so that community outreach and development can be conducted and those who are in need of support can be positively impacted.

“Public education, awareness and training, but specifically based on funding from our external partners especially ECAID in the Caribbean region, the Pan American Foundation and Outright Action International. We have had an advocacy training and public speaking for members of the LGBTQI community and allies. This was conducted last Saturday,” Wong said.

Presently, a survey can be found on the Women Against Rape Antigua and Barbuda Facebook page so that the public can interact with the NGO and receive education on what constitutes GBV and sexual harassment in the workplace.

“The public can participate by going to our page, liking our page and liking the posts that we put up so that we know there are persons who have a valid interest and a vested interest in seeing that violence against women and girls in Antigua and Barbuda is adequately dealt with,” the WAR President said.

Wong also expressed concern about the treatment of victims of domestic violence in the country adding, “There is no designated shelter for women in crisis in Antigua and Barbuda and that is one of the gaps.”

Violence is not limited to physical, verbal and sexual. Other forms of violence include:

  • Emotional abuse includes constant criticism, name-calling or other verbal abuse, damaging a partner’s relationship with children or not letting a partner see friends and family.
  • Psychological abuse involves causing fear by intimidation, threatening physical harm to self, partner or children, destroying of pets and property, gaslighting, forcing isolation from friends, family, school and/or work.
  • Financial or economic abuse involves making or attempting to make a person financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding access to money, and/or prevention of higher education or employment.
  • Physical abuse involves hurting or trying to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, burning, grabbing, pinching, shoving, slapping, hair-pulling, biting, denying medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use, or using other physical force.
  • Sexual abuse involves forcing a partner to take part in sex acts without consent.
  • Stalking involves any pattern of behaviour of unwanted contact which is intended to harass, annoy, or terrorise the victim.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, call the WAR hotline for assistance on 721-5553 or email [email protected].

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