Editors' Forum | Forces have tough stance on sexual harassment - One ‘no’ is allowed – Meade
Both the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have crafted a policy on sexual harassment to especially protect women from abuse, exploitation, and career suicide.
Non-adherence could land individuals in serious trouble in both arms of the law.
The JDF – with its 6,000 military personnel of all ranks – has developed within the last year a policy that will shortly be distributed to all members of the army, according to Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, chief of defence staff (CDS), who was speaking at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Friday.
The army’s top boss said the “one” was enough.
“We have always treated any type of harassment very seriously. But what was lacking were specific guidelines. I have instituted, since last year, a very specific sexual-harassment policy. What I have done is to capture and publish very specific guidelines,” the CDS told the forum on Friday.
Continuing, he said: “We are not trying to prevent relationships. As you know, in an environment where you engage the most, that is where you are most likely to develop relationships. But the first thing I want to achieve is that nobody should be subject to undue pressure because someone else is interested in a relationship with them.
“So because of that, one of the things I have said in the sexual-harassment policy is that you are entitled to one ‘no’. Just to make it simple. So in other words, if you approach someone and they are not interested, the next approach breaches the sexual-harassment policy,” he told the forum.
According to Meade, among the most vulnerable were civilian personnel, new recruits, and Service Corps trainees. But without missing a beat, he said that the first no could be redeemed.
“If somebody says no, and they didn’t really mean the no, then that person has the next opportunity to go back and say, ‘Well, I didn’t really mean the no,’” he said to much laughter.
Meade said he has stretched the definition of vulnerable groups to include individuals seeking to become members of the JDF. He said that the impression must not be given that being friendly with recruiters would put them in a position for acceptance.
“We are very clear on vulnerable groups. So there is an elaborate policy with details, and we have created a little card that we are now laminating, with bullet points to give the essential points, and we are going to get it out to all the troops soon. So all the soldiers, including the young recruits, will have cards that outline what the policy says … , ” he told the forum.
‘I HAVE TO PROTECT THEM’
The JDF boss said he was not discouraging relationships but cautioned that the workplace should not become so hazardous that vulnerable individuals feel intimidated and are subjected to pressure because of a fear of promotion in the hierarchical structure of the organisation.
“I have to protect them,” he vowed.
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) said it, too, had been forced to institute a sexual-harassment policy after mounting complaints from members.
Head of the JCF’s communication arm, Assistant Superintendent Dahlia Garrick, provided a copy of the document, which was published in the Force Orders of September 2017.
“Numerous complaints have been received from some of our members of sexual harassment by senior officers. These reports indicate that sexual harassment occurs in the Jamaica Constabulary Force in the form of unwanted physical contact such as actual touching, fondling, pinching, ‘cornering or trapping’ by leaning over a worker. Harassment also takes the form of sexual teasing or the telling of sexually explicit jokes, sexually suggestive looks or gestures, repeated requests for dates or meetings outside work … ,” the policy reads in part.
The document says that sexual harassment “generally refers to actions that are sexually directed, unwanted, and which subject the worker to adverse employment conditions or create a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment can occur between a superior and a subordinate and among co-workers and or peers”.
It said there were two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environment.
According to the document, quid pro quo occurs when an employer or superior links specific employment outcomes to individuals granting sexual favours. Examples include “linking conditions of employment such as job security, promotions, transfers, disciplinary actions, work hours, performance appraisal, inter alia, to the granting or withholding of sexual favours.”
A hostile environment occurs when sexual harassment has the effect of unreasonably interfering with employee work performance or psychological well-being or when intimidating or offensive working conditions are created.
Garrick said the force was intolerant of the abuse.
The policy document, signed then by the police commissioner, read, “I cannot overemphasise the fact that these are serious allegations, and as, such it should be borne in mind that malicious, mischievous, frivolous complaints can cause injury, embarrassment, apprehension, or discomfort to the alleged offender. Such complaints, where they occur, will become the subject of disciplinary action.”