Time for action on sexual harassment law

The Ministry of Labour is being urged to take the necessary action to get long-awaited sexual harassment legislation in place.

The Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) general secretary Toni Moore has contended that the legislation has been at draft stage long enough.

She made the call as she addressed a seminar to mark the start of the BWU’s activities to mark International Women’s Day at the Labour College in Mangrove, St Philip today.

Moore said the ministry needed to push forward the bill which is aimed at protecting both female and male workers from sexual harassment in the workplace.

BWU General Secretary Toni Moore
BWU General Secretary Toni Moore

“We have had the discussions in draft for some time and we need to get our Ministry of Labour fulfilling the objective that was set, and the commitment that has been given, to having in place sexual harassment legislation,” she told participants.

“This is not typically legislation for women, but it is legislation that primarily addresses women, if for no other reason than that women are the ones that are comfortable coming forward and saying, ‘I have been harassed’. I don’t know that there are any men in this room that would be comfortable making that complaint, even if it were true.”

The trade union leader also called on Government to implement measures to reduce or eliminate the hindrances to gender equality.

“Notwithstanding the strides that many would suggest have been made by women, and while we must admit that there has been some progress, a sustainable inclusive caring economy still remains an objective,” she said.

“The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and must not, therefore, be seen in isolation as a women’s issue,” she argued.

Moore further urged the social partners to rethink employment policies and address “any negative gender implications or current patterns of work”.

Using the recent debate on the implementation of a 24-hour work system in Barbados, she said: “I find that in recent times . . . it seems that the objective is not merely seeking where you can tap into benefits that would redound to everybody, but for a small section of players who would wish to see us eradicate overtime.”

“So that, in a 24-hour system, you would be required to work any set of eight hours in that day at flat time, where the conventions that make provision for night work would not be adhered to, and where . . . women in particular, who have the responsibility for child care and the responsibility for elderly care, would be disadvantaged because you do not have commensurate with that objective, systems in place right now,” she added.

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