Editors' Forum | Sexual harassment sham? - Hewett questions the commitment of legislators to pass long-promised law

Almost 30 years after Jamaica first started its consideration of laws to address the issue of sexual harassment, executive director of Woman Inc Joyce Hewett has concluded that the political will is not there for the legislation to be passed.

And Hewett is convinced that the delay in the legislation is partly because men are the ones who predominantly make the decisions in Parliament.

Speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday, Hewett noted that there have been discussions about introducing sexual harassment legislation from as far back as 1991.

"This is about the fifth time, at least, that it has come, tabled, gone back. The problem was that for years, the Bureau (of Gender Affairs) was insisting on a policy," Hewett told Gleaner reporters and editors.

"Policy has no teeth. With regard to enforcement, you really need legislation, and not that legislation is the wherewithal, but you need legislation at least as a start, and then, of course, we have to work on changing behaviours. That is ultimately what we need to do - change behaviour, change the culture," declared Hewett.

She added: "The lack of political will is our greatest enemy. If I were to be perfectly honest, sexual harassment, for example, when I think about it, it just makes me exhausted.

"We are stuck in terms of moving it forward at a pace that would be acceptable in 2018."

Minister with responsibility for Gender Affairs Olivia Grange indicated in September that the administration was a step closer to taking the sexual harassment legislation to Parliament.

According to Grange, sexual harassment is a very serious crime that militates against the desired level of peace, harmony, and happiness in the country.

"I look forward to our debate in this House and us providing protection to all women and men from unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and crude sexual behaviours," Grange told Parliament.


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