Sexual harassment should be promoted as human rights issue, says trade unionist

HEAD of the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute at The University of the West Indies Open Campus Danny Roberts says Jamaican workers have an inalienable right to work in a safe environment that is free from sexual harassment and discrimination, and that at the heart of the issue must be the emphasis of the social partners in promoting dignity and respect among all categories of workers.

Addressing a recent meeting of the Association of Consultant Physicians of Jamaica at a symposium on ethics, Roberts said that protecting workers from sexual harassment is a fundamental human right issue and employers are legally liable to protect their workers by taking all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment.

Roberts said that the effects of sexual harassment have been quite negative on the victims, the organisation, and the society, as he pointed to the psychological suffering, behavioural changes, stress-related physical and mental illnesses and missed career opportunities that victims face when they have been sexually harassed.

“Organisations have seen decreased productivity due to impaired judgement, compromised team work, demotivation and absenteeism,” he said.

According to Roberts, the society could face long-term rehabilitation costs for the reintegration of victims, legal and criminal justice expenses and the undermining of women’s access to high status and well-paid jobs in the traditionally male-dominated industries.

He noted that while the sexual harassment Bill contemplates the development of sexual harassment policies and other measures to combat sexual harassment, the fundamental issue is the orientation of sexual harassment training that promotes activities and behaviours that should be encouraged in the workplace. He argued that the long-term effects of combating sexual harassment lie in the orientation of the educational system to address the stigma of violence and to embrace the values, respect, dignity, and self-esteem that must mould the character of our children before they enter the world of work.

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