Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Sexual harassment, ill treatment of disabled no business in the workplace

Published:Tuesday | April 14, 2015 | 12:00 AMAnastasia Cunningham
Derrick Kellier, minister of labour and social security, agriculture and fisheries, Senator Sandrea Falconer, minister without portfolio with responsibility for information and gender affairs, and Senator K.D. Knight, chairman of the Urban Development Corporation, at the official launch of the corporation’s sexual harassment and disability policies yesterday.

The double-edge sword of sexual harassment and discrimination based on disability has no place in any civilised work environment, Minister Without Portfolio with Responsibility for Information and Gender Affairs Senator Sandrea Falconer noted yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of the Urban Development Corporation's (UDC) Sexual Harassment Policy and the Disability Policy, held at the company's Kingston office, she added that everyone must be given equal opportunities to achieve their full potential.

"I know many young ladies who find it so difficult to go to work because of how tough the environment is for them. They don't have a choice but to go to work because of their economic status, but at work, life is so unbearable, and we have to ensure that this comes to an end," she stated.

"Unfortunately, far too many victims are suffering in silence. Far too many persons do not report sexual harassment because they feel it would be a waste of time because the law would not protect them, while others suffer in silence because of fear."

Falconer said persons facing sexual harassment will soon have a recourse under the law, as last year, the Cabinet issued instructions to the chief parliamentary council for the drafting of the long-awaited Sexual Harassment Legislation.

A Bureau of Women's Affairs 2008 survey found that most persons who reported sexual harassment identified their workplace environment as where it took place. Studies also showed that 71 per cent of sexual harassment victims were women, while 29 per cent were men.


given equal opportunities


On the issue of the protection of the disabled in the workplace, Falconer said with the Statistical Institute of Jamaica reporting that approximately 785,000 Jamaicans living with some form of disability, it was important that they be given equal opportunities.

"There are so many with disabilities that have the talent and ability to grow and make a significant contribution to the development of the country. They have the skills, talent, and abilities, and can contribute to their own sustainable livelihood and the economic development of our country. They just need to be given the opportunity," she noted.

In October, the Senate passed The Disabilities Act 2014, which makes provisions to safeguard and enhance the welfare of persons with disabilities across Jamaica.

The UDC's Disability Policy serves as a guide for how persons with disabilities should be managed and treated in the workplace. While the Sexual Harassment Policy makes clear the company's position on such matters in the workplace, with a zero-tolerance approach and appropriate procedures to deal with sexual harassment. The UDC is leading the charge among government agencies in launching both policies.

UDC chairman, Senator K.D. Knight, said it was critical that every workplace in Jamaica implement these policies as sexual harassment and the treatment of the disabled is a reality across the country.

"Persons at the workplace must be allowed to perform and given the leeway to carry out their duties without hindrance. They must be allowed to progress on merit and not be kept down by the idiosyncrasies of others," said Knight.