UN Women National Private Sector Specialist for the Win-Win: Gender Equality Means Good Business Programme in Jamaica, Dr. Denise Chevannes-Vogel, has underscored the fact that although the majority of victims are women, sexual harassment is experienced by both women and men and is perpetrated regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. “It is unwanted and unwelcome and can result in significant social and economic costs in the Jamaican workplace,” she said.
Dr. Chevannes-Vogel pointed out that sexual harassment leads to an intimidating and hostile work environment in which workers become demotivated, discouraged, emotionally fragile and broken. “They leave and this can result in the cost of having to retrain workers or in very expensive lawsuits,” she noted.
Dr. Chevannes-Vogel was speaking during a “Multimedia Sensitisation Forum for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Private Sector Workplace” on Wednesday (December 11, 2019) in Kingston Jamaica, hosted under the auspices of the regional programme “Win-Win: Gender Equality Means Good Business”, a strategic partnership between UN Women, the European Union and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The forum follows recent discussions by a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the proposed Sexual Harassment Act 2019 which seeks to protect all women and men from unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and crude sexual behaviours that affect quality of life by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.
Almost 50 representatives from private sector organisations, government, civil society and women’s groups, international development partners and trade unions attended the event. The Win-Win programme promotes the economic empowerment of women, recognising them as beneficiaries and partners of growth and development. In the Caribbean, where the majority of households are headed by single women, women’s economic independence is important to support their families. Sexual harassment can ultimately impact continued employment and ability to earn an income.
In Jamaica, the Win-Win Programme is working with the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport through the Bureau of Gender Affairs to develop an awareness and communications campaign around the upcoming Sexual Harassment law in Jamaica.
Senior Director, Bureau of Gender Affairs, Mrs. Sharon Coburn Robinson said members of the public are invited to take part in the process by submitting their contributions to the House of Parliament by December 23rd,“Once the submissions are made the Joint Select Committee will make a determination as to how soon it is heard and how are taken on each sitting.” She said the sittings will be held weekly starting in January 2020 to make sure the legislation is swiftly treated.
A Multimedia toolkit developed by Multimedia Consultant Vilma Gregory to raise awareness on the issue of Sexual Harassment was unveiled during the Forum.