Gender equality body launches drive against sexual harassment

In an effort to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace, the Women & Gender Equality Commission (WGEC) yesterday launched its Suggestion Boxes initiative to deal with the issue.

The boxes would be placed at strategic locations in all of the regions and the commission has so far identified places in regions four and six, including the post offices, Georgetown Public Hospital, the National Library, the University of Guyana [Tain and Turkeyen campuses] and the Giftland Mall.

Chairperson of the WGEC, Indra Chandarpal, told the media at a press conference yesterday that the campaign was launched to give the victims an opportunity to speak out.

The boxes would allow victims of sexual harassment to place letters addressed to the commission.

The boxes would be opened every two weeks.

Chairperson of the WGEC, Indra Chandarpal (third from right) and other members, from right: the lone male who represents the cultural aspect, Peter Persaud, Debra Henry, a professional; Vanda Radzik, Nicole Cole,  Sandra Hooper and Halima Khan of the ROC
Chairperson of the WGEC, Indra Chandarpal (third from right) and other members, from right: the lone male who represents the cultural aspect, Peter Persaud, Debra Henry, a professional; Vanda Radzik, Nicole Cole, Sandra Hooper and Halima Khan of the ROC

The letters do not necessarily have to include names, but it must have an authentic address so that the commissioners can proceed with investigations.

They would look at the letters in the office to “ascertain the issues and would have an investigative officer follow through on that.”

She said they have looked at the Prevention of Discrimination Act of 1997 and have gotten some guidance from that but are also looking at crafting new legislation.

Thirdly, the commission also plans to distribute posters to trade unions, public and private sector offices that read: “Sexual harassment is unacceptable, unwanted, unfair, unlawful.”

There is also a message at the bottom, saying: “If you are being subjected to sexual harassment and you are unable to stop it,” contact the WGEC office at “66 Peter Rose and Anira Streets, Queenstown.” It also listed the commission’s telephone number: 231-5276.

Another poster read: “Sexual harassment is any unwelcome act, comment, gesture or physical contact of a sexual nature.” She said the messages would help to create awareness about the issue.

Apart from the three initiatives, the commission is also looking at conducting workshop sessions, continuing the distribution of family violence posters and setting up of billboards.

She said they have to “tackle family violence head-on and [again] we are raising the awareness. So every time people pass and see the billboards, it must leave an impact on their minds.”

She said two years ago they had also started a programme of going to the schools and addressing the students during the assembly.

Vanda Radzik, a commissioner representing women said they would have the services of Legal Aid to assist the victims in taking their cases forward.

Meanwhile, a representative of the Rights of the Child Commission (ROC), Nicole Cole, told the media that the commissions have been working on a Juvenile Justice Bill that would soon be tabled in parliament.

The bill would have a provision where juveniles would no longer be charged with wandering.

She said statistics have shown that the majority of the children, including girls who have been placed at the New Opportunity Corps are there as a result of wandering.

Cole said: “Children of difficult circumstances need psycho-social support, economic support, welfare support, social services support and not charge and punishment.”

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