Sexual Harassment

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Time for action on sexual harassment in the Workplace

VIOLENCE against women, according to the definition set out by the United Nations, is “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”.

Sexual harassment in the workplace fits into this definition and despite the strong evidence that it is a serious problem here in Trinidad and Tobago; there are as yet no comprehensive laws to provide relief to victims, or serious penalties to perpetrators. The only way in handling sexual harassment in the workplace is to change Legislation to protect complainants, introduce a more stringent policy documents in the work place and sensitize employees of their rights as it relates to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Firstly, Trinidad and Tobago’s legislation, as far as i am aware of, does not speak directly to sexual harassment, even though the Equal Opportunity Act and the Industrial Relation Act does and prohibits sexual harassment. While in other Countries, sexual harassment has been found to constitute to sex discrimination. At present, the law does not create a criminal offence of discriminatory acts against offenders who sexual assault people in the workplace. Rather its major focus of the Legislation only provides a framework for defining discrimination and providing avenues for redress to discrimination. So as employers / supervisors we are faced with the task of properly reporting and investigating all acts of sexual harassment as clinically and with utmost urgency.

In recent years, anti-harassment provisions have been included in many of the collective agreements between local companies and trade unions in Trinidad and Tobago. However, these don’t offer any range of protections and reliefs that can be afforded to victims of sexual harassment...
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