Proposed bill to better handle sexual harassment in the Caribbean

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Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean (Impact Justice) Regional Project Director, Velma Newton, is proposing a bill to specifically deal with sexual harassment. Newton believes that sexual harassment is not handled comprehensively or taken as seriously as it should be in the Caribbean.
She disclosed this information in an exclusive interview with OBSERVER media.
      “Quite a few countries have specific legislation for sexual harassment, and most of them have confined the legislation to sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Impact Justice has drafted a bill which deals with sexual harassment anywhere it occurs, and our view is that it can occur any place, particularly in the workplace, but not necessarily only there,” she added.
Newton hopes that the bill will be passed by all CARICOM countries, since sexual harassment is overlooked in the Carib-bean.
Newton highlighted the fact that Antigua and Barbuda does not have any specific legislation for sexual harassment.
 According to her, while references to sexual harassment are made in other legislation, a specific bill on the matter is absolutely necessary.
She added that although sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited in many CARICOM countries, there are no laws for cases outside the workplace.
Newton pointed out that sexual harassment is unwanted sexual gestures or comments, and these often occur on the street.
She said that most individuals take these comments as a joke or something irrelevant, however if they are unwanted, this is a form of harassment.
Newton further added that in many Caribbean countries it is a cultural norm to pass suggestive, provocative or lewd comments at women. However, the person receiving the comment may feel at times harassed. According to her, people should not have to constantly feel uncomfortable in cases like these.
The proposed bill, she explained, is gender neutral despite the fact that, while women are mainly targeted, men too can face sexual harassment.
“We sent the bill to the CARICOM secretariat, but I don’t think it has been sent to the legal affairs committee for consideration as yet…
the legal affairs committee usually has a crowded agenda.”
Impact Justice is a five-year regional justice sector reform project funded by the Government of Canada. It is being implemented from within the Caribbean Law Institute Centre, Faculty of Law, the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus.
The project has as its ultimate outcome, enhanced access to justice benefitting men, women, youth and businesses in CARICOM member states.

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