The Women and Gender Equality Commission (WGEC) is taking the wheel in the fight to end sexual harassment in the workplace and chairperson Indra Chandarpal says in addition to a public education campaign, the commission will be pushing for the establishment of relevant legislation.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Chandarpal said sexual harassment at the workplace is a known issue but one that not many people want to talk about. She stressed that the harassment affects both men and women.
Chandarpal informed that the WGEC has been advised that the Prevention of Discrimination Act 1997 captures issues related to sexual harassment in the workplace. “We have been advised that the… Act of ’97 may very well take care of those issues and we are at the moment trying to see how we can tweak it so that we can collaborate with the government or the Attorney General’s Chambers to work towards the sexual harassment legislation because we believe that it is needed,” she noted.
She said that during the gender policy discourse at the convention centre in August this year, the commission officially launched a campaign with sexual harassment posters, which will be made available to offices and placed in other public spaces. She said people ought to be aware of the existence of sexual harassment and understand what it means.
Commissioner Renata Chuck-A-Sang said the commission has been pushing to have at least a policy in regard to sexual harassment.
She was asked about reports of sexual harassment in the prison service and she noted that it would also fall under sexual harassment in the place of work. According to Chuck-a-Sang, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan should be commended for relieving Welton Trotz of his duties as Director of Prisons in the wake of a sexual abuse charge being filed against him. She said, however, that further action needs to be taken, “to send a strong message, particularly in the disciplined forces where we understand sexual harassment is rife.” She added that the WGEC can only make recommendations.
Meanwhile, Chandarpal stated that the commission has embarked on a countrywide outreach but so far only regions Two and Eight have been completed. She envisioned that by year end the remaining regions will be covered.
Among the topics members of the commission raised with stakeholders were economic empowerment, self-esteem, reproductive health, skills training and gender-based violence.
WGEC Chief Executive Officer Diana Swan-Lawrence also noted that the commission made a number of recommendations to the Public Service Commission of Inquiry, all of which will benefit women and by extension the entire family. These include flexible working hours for mothers even if it means allowing them to work from home, accessible daycare facilities, job sharing, paternity leave for expectant fathers, family medical leave, flexible emergency leave and playrooms at offices.
The treatment of female security guards was raised during the press conference and it was stated that the commission will lobby for these women to not have to work the night shift if they have young children.