By Terrel Yearwood and Dawn Morgan, in the Barbados Daily
Sunday 27 August 2000
LEGISLATION AIMED at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace
will soon be on the statute books of Barbados.
Minister of Labour Rudolph Greenidge, acknowledging that Barbados was
far behind other countries in this regard, promised strong legislation
to protect Barbadian workers.
He was at the time addressing yesterday's opening of the 59th Annual
Delegates"Conference of the Barbados Workers' Union at Solidarity
The sexual harassment legislation was among a number of areas being
looked at in the new draft legislation.
And over at the Grand Barbados Hotel, attorney-at- law Jacqueline
Cornelius told a gathering of magistrates, lawyers and researchers
that"rough and commonplace talk, or picong, sexual innuendoes and
sexual touching"which constituted sexual harrassment were not
necessary, or desirable aspects of Caribbean life and they were
certainly not acceptable in the workplace.
"That is a myth,"said Cornelius, who was speaking at the
UNIFEM/UWI Sub-regional Roundtable on Gender and Human Rights.
Cornelius said:"Sexual harassment is a question of
discrimination. It is not about the tender sensitivities or lack of
humour on the part of the victim."
One of the most common forms is the"quid pro quo"situation
of"work for work"or"something for something'. In this type
of"sexual blackmail"the victim has to agree to sex in order to
get or keep a job, or receive a promotion.
"More insidious"and difficult to provide evidence of, is
when"a hostile work environment"is created in which the
worker, usually female, feels threatened.
This scenario can include: insults, remarks, jokes, insinuations,
unnecessary physical contact, inappropriate comments on body and
dress, questions about sexual activities, and unwelcomed and
persistent invitations for sex.
Because of fear of economic hardship, anecdotes are whispered among
women, but victims seldom seek justice from unions or employers. In
cases where they do report it, women often end up demoted or
dismissed, while the perpetrator keeps his job.
Last night Corneilus said she was happy to hear of the proposed
legislation to deal with sexual harassment.
However, she said there should also be a public education programme
which would sensitise the public to what harassment is.
She also urged employers and employees to view the legislation with an
open mind."It isn't Government wanting to interfere in a person's
private relations, but the state has a duty to protect citizens
against discrimination,"she said.