It's sexual harassment - Proposed law frowns on Gayle-like conduct
If a Sexual Harassment Bill tabled last month in Parliament becomes law, utterances like those made recently by West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle to a female Australian reporter could lead to civil sanctions, including a monetary penalty.
Attorney-at-law Bert Samuels, in an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, said that the fact that Gayle tendered an apology would mitigate whatever consequences would follow his action.
"However, it's interesting that he said he meant it for humour, but the act does not exclude it if it's just a prank, therefore, one has to be careful. Both men and women must be careful. It does not only speak to words, but a wink, or sticking out your tongue or fingers can amount to harassment. It doesn't have to be verbal or physical," Samuels said.
The Jamaica and West Indies opener was fined for making inappropriate comments to a female reporter in a live TV interview during a Big Bash League Twenty20 match in Australia on Monday.
After scoring 41 from 15 deliveries for the Melbourne Renegades in a win over the Hobart Hurricanes, the former Windies captain suggested to television reporter Mel McLaughlin that the pair go out for a drink and made remarks about her appearance.
Then Gayle said, "Don't blush, baby."
This has sparked outrage among a number of international bodies and individuals, including Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, who indicated that Gayle's comments were suggestive, bordered on harassment, and were inappropriate in the workplace.
Making reference to Section 2 of the bill, Samuels stated in an interview with The Gleaner that a journalist could bring a harassment claim if a similar incident were to happen in Jamaica.
"The definition section of the bill proposed makes it clear that the institution in which this harassment takes place is defined as a place for the use of any facility by members of any organisation. So the cricket field on which journalists will come would fall under a place for the use of any facility by members of any organisation, and as such, the journalists would have been operating in that space covered by that section of the act," he said.
Samuels noted that Jamaica's proposed law defines sexual harassment as a sexual advance towards a person that is reasonably regarded as unwelcome.
"Based on the clip that we have (interview), the person, by her conduct, seems to have resented it, or was resisting it, in the interview, and so it seems to me that there is no evidence that he (Gayle) could use of any welcome by her. Therefore, that invitation by him, during the work hour, during the work space, would mean that it was a case of sexual harassment."
The bill seeks to outlaw sexual intimidation, coercion, and pestering in the workplace, institutions, and in landlord-tenant relationships.
The proposed legislation frowns upon unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature and provides a framework for offenders to pay civil damages in court to persons whose feelings have been injured or who have suffered humiliation as a result of sexual harassment.
Sexual advances such as a demand or request for sex or favours of a sexual nature are to be prohibited within the workplace or institutions if the bill becomes law.
Natalie Neita-Headley, the minister with responsibility for sports, said that she is disappointed by Gayle's action, which she described as "quite unfortunate".
"I don't want to overlook in any shape or form the contribution by our athletes, but as we do what it is we do internationally, we must remember that we are ambassadors, and I believe that what Chris has done in this instance was most inappropriate," she declared.
"I not only speak as a minister, but I am a human being first. However, not because I am female, but it was not the place for it. He has apologised ... . I believe that it should be a lesson to other athletes," Neita-Headley added.
In the meantime, Dr Leith Dunn, head of the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, said that the situation had tarnished the country's reputation somewhat.
"I was very disappointed when I watched it. It speaks to a lack of sensitivity. It speaks to sexism, and what was particularly disappointing is the fact that he did not seem genuinely apologetic. His body language suggested that he was embarrassed, but the sense one got was that he felt as if it was taken out of context and blown out of proportion," Dunn said.
"It's an embarrassment," she added.