As a result of the heightened reports of sexual harassment in work places and institutions throughout the region, a Sexual Harassment Bill has been drafted for consideration.
This Bill also comes to the fore after the region recognised that the CARICOM Sexual Harassment Bill of 1996 is not wide enough to cover all the areas in which sexual harassment occurs.
The draft bill is a product of IMPACT Justice, a project funded by the Government of Canada and designed to address deficiencies in the Justice sector in CARICOM member countries.
Sexual Harassment is the first issue that is being looked at by the committee as requested by many Attorney Generals in the region.
According to Project Director, Velma Newton, it involves finding alternatives for persons to use to try to address any grievances they have without going to court, hence the reason why the project will be focused on Mediation.
“We firmly believe that if we can train Mediators to assist persons to solve (the problem) at the community level, it will deflect a lot of cases from the court ….”, she said.
The draft bill was put together by member of the committee, Lydia Elliot of St Lucia.
The promoters held a workshop earlier in the month at the Radisson Hotel at Grand Anse to further refine the document to ensure that a proper project is being brought forward.
The workshop was attended by participants from almost every CARICOM member state.
It is the hope of the promoters that the refined bill will provide for the prevention of sexual harassment and the introduction of remedies in circumstances where a person makes a sexual harassment complaint.
According to Elliot the draft bill contains six essential elements.
“A clear definition of sexual harassment which identifies that types of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment and to remove any uncertainty as to what is intended by sexual harassment. The bill will set out the circumstances to be satisfied in order for an act in sexual harassment to be constituted and it identifies the types of conduct that would amount to sexual harassment.
“…Another essential element to the draft bill is the provision imposing an occupation and every employer or a person in charge of an institution to issue or formulate a policy statement concerning sexual harassment in the workplace. That now would also include a clear stipulation of what should be in that policy statement. If that policy statement is not formulated by the employer or the person who is in charge of the institution, the law provides a schedule policy statement which may be adopted by the employer or the person in charge of the institution.
She also explained the information that should be incorporated in the policy statement, saying that it should provide for every person to be in an environment that is free of sexual harassment.
She added that the draft document will also outline how an employer would deal with sexual harassment complaints and also protection for visitors or third parties.
It is the hope of parties involved that the bill will become law by 2017.
Under the draft, it is proposed that if the perpetrators are found guilty for sexual harassment, there will be compensation and damages awarded to the victim as it will be treated as a civil matter.