Ms. Daley said the Justice Minister, who should be setting an example of demonstrable compassion, must not be allowed to minimise the impact of his insult with a tired cliché of an apology.
She said if this Sexual Harassment Bill is to be taken seriously, Minister Chuck must be sanctioned and the position on the way forward is firmly articulated by an impartial voice so that every Jamaican is assured that they would be protected under the law.
“The Justice Minister cannot on his own determine that sexual harassment complaints are valid for only twelve months, and discounting the emotional and psychological impact on the victims as if these people are somehow of lesser value than others,” Ms. Daley said.
“Sexual harassment is a serious offence and must never be taken lightly, especially by the Minister charged with the responsibility for administering justice in a society with historical antecedence of inequalities and discriminations,” Ms. Daley said.
Minister Chuck’s display in the Joint Select Committee examining the draft Sexual Harassment Bill and his suggestion of allowing just one year to file a sexual harassment complaint sum up his attitude toward victims of such offence,” Ms. Daley said.
In his comments, Minister Chuck said Jamaica does not want a #MeToo Movement as in the US, where abused persons are reporting cases up to 30 years after the actual incidents. The Minister‘s chuckle before he recommended that abused persons be given a 12-month limitation to make their complaints speaks to a mindset that such accusations should not be taken seriously.
“Our people deserve better. The victims, the majority of whom are powerless to defend themselves, need the support of organisations such as the #MeToo Movement to provide the platform and strong voice for action.
“In Jamaica, the time limit for most civil claims is six years. So why should sexual harassment claims, which are based on intentional obnoxious sexual behavior against the victim, be time barred after one year?” Ms. Daley questioned. She said no less than a six-year limit should be considered if any at all.
She said that these victims should not be placed at any additional disadvantage by removing their ability to pursue justice at a time when they may feel most comforted and supported, and able to defend themselves psychologically, physically and emotionally.
For many, the effects of the harassment are long term, and they will only come forward when they feel assured of not being at risk of suffering additional psychological trauma, the Shadow Minister said.
Ms. Daley pointed out that most victims of sexual harassment do not make a formal complaint as the general perception is that these issues are not treated with any level of seriousness. She said Minister Chuck’s response only serves to maintain the silence and the notion that these infractions are to be ignored.
She said agencies such as the Jamaican Employers’ Federation, women’s NGOs, such as SISTREN, as well as trade unions had addressed this problem over the years.
The Jamaican Household Workers Association (JHWA) confirms that their members face this problem mainly because of the isolated nature of their job, which leaves them more vulnerable. All these organisations concede that sexual harassment is a rampant problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
- Countries: Jamaica
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