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I was sexually harassed

Published: 
Saturday, June 2, 2018
Labour Minister at consultation:
Ministry of Labour, Chief Labour Relation officer, Sabina Gomez, left, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Gender and Child Affairs, Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, International Labour Organization, ILO, Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, Senior Specialist for employers’ activities, Vanessa Phala, Senior Legal Officer, Office of the Prime Minister Child and Gender Affairs, Gaietry Pargass and Equal Opportunity Commission, Chairman, Lynette Seebaran-Suite chat during the lunch break of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development multipartite Stakeholder consultation on the draft national workplace policy on Sexual Harassment in T&T at the Hilton Trinidad, yesterday. PICTURE SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus expressed concern yesterday at the lack of data in T&T on sexual harassment in the workplace to ensure analysis and policy guidelines.

In her comments at the opening of a consultation on a draft national workplace policy on sexual harassment at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre in Port-of-Spain, the minister described sexual harassment as a “very delicate issue” which if not clinically, objectively and unemotionally debated can result in unwelcome repercussions.

Recalling her own experiences as a young public service employee, Baptiste-Primus said like many other women she had to deal with sexual harassment at work. Undeterred, she fought for her rights and was triumphant.

“I know the perils of sexual harassment in the workplace. I know it from a personal level,” she said.

She said a US poll conducted a few years ago revealed that out of 782 workers surveyed, allegations of sexual harassment were predominant in the business, trade and banking and finance sectors. The second highest area where incidents reportedly occurred was in sales and marketing, followed by the hospitality industry and the civil service.

According to the minister, out of 728 workers, 62 per cent of the victims took no action, while 100 per cent of them claimed the harasser was a man.

The poll showed that 59 per cent of men claimed the harasser was a woman and 41 per cent claimed it was another man.

“Regrettably in Trinidad and Tobago we do not have this type of data. No doubt the time has come for us to address this shortcoming and to conduct our own research and analysis on the issue and in that regard we anxiously await the establishment of the National Statistical Institute,” Baptiste-Primus said.

She said currently there is no standalone legislation in T&T which addresses sexual harassment. Separate laws, including case law, is applied to sexual harassment cases, or to offer redress to a person who is victimised.

The minister said the consultation is significant as it seeks to develop a policy to prevent, prohibit and address sexual harassment at all levels in the workplace. It also seeks to develop a social construct to change and expand the scope of the industrial relations framework in T&T and is geared toward treating with, as far as is reasonably practicable, promotion of ethical workplace practices, thereby eliminating sexual harassment.

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy said sexual harassment is “unwelcome sexual behaviour which could be expected to make a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.”

She added: “It is specific and a serious form of harassment which can lead to a hostile work environment.”

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