Current Affairs

Current Affairs



Minister promises legislation to tackle sexual harassment
Monday, July 01, 2002
Jamaica Observer

SIMPSON MILLER ... in the year 2000, 631 women in the age group 10 to 19 years visited emergency units and public hospitals because of sexual assaults.

A proposed law to tackle sexual harassment is to be presented to the government soon, according to the minister of tourism and sport, Portia Simpson Miller.

The minister, who has portfolio responsibility for women's affairs, said sexual harassment and violence were two of the most serious offences being committed against women in the country.

She was making her contribution to the 2002/03 sectoral debate in the House of Representatives last week.

"In the year 2000, 631 women in the age group 10 to 19 years visited emergency units and public hospitals because of sexual assaults, and according to statistics from the Women's Crisis Centre for the period October to December 2001, 943 women were assisted in cases, including rape, incest, domestic violence and request for shelter," the minister said.

With the incidence of sexual harassment occurring against women in Jamaica increasing, Simpson Miller said the Bureau of Women's Affair was on the verge of presenting some proposals to the government.

"The bureau has completed a review of legislation to amend criminal laws and procedures. The review with recommendations and suggestions will be forwarded to the government shortly, as well as a proposed Sexual Harassment Act," she said.

Simpson Miller noted that the review was necessary to bring the laws in line with modern thinking and the changing realities in women's lives.

She said violence in general and domestic violence in particular, HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health problems, including high levels of teenage pregnancies, were also serious concerns to the bureau.

"Public education and sensitisation programmes targeting schools, communities, churches and the justice system, and publicising issues of violence against women and girls, in collaboration with print and electronic media, are just some of the methods used to tackle the problem," Simpson Miller said.

The Bureau of Women's Affairs has also produced a second video in the series on violence against women entitled, Starting Over, which highlights the issue of domestic violence.

Another film, Hope Deferred, would also be used as an important public education tool in schools and communities throughout Jamaica and in the Caribbean community, Simpson Miller said.