Nov 03, 2016 News
Some victims of sexual harassment are too intimidated to seek help. It was with this in mind that the Women and Gender Equality Commission decided to introduce an initiative that will help victims, or individuals aware of sexual harassment cases, to anonymously seek help to intervene in such matters.
The venture will take on the form of suggestion boxes which will be strategically placed at various public locations countrywide.
Plans in this regard were vocalised by Chairperson of the Commission, Ms. Indra Chandarpal, during a press conference held at the Commission’s Peter Rose and Anira Streets, Queenstown, Georgetown, office yesterday.
Speaking to media operatives, Chandarpal said that it was found that a number of victims were afraid of the perpetrator of the harassment, since it was likely that they could be further victimised.
“Let’s be honest, if you are working in a company and your superior wants to have a relationship with you and you are not in agreement, they can do things to make your life miserable…We have had an incident where somebody who came forward and said ‘I am being harassed’ and we tried to deal with it, but then the person probably got cold feet and said “I think I will resolve it myself…I will go and talk to the manager and try and resolve it’,” Chandarpal revealed yesterday.
But according to her, “I haven’t seen that person at that company anymore…that person just disappeared, people are afraid of victimisation or intimation and we have to be mindful of that.”
As such, Chandarpal said that the Commission, in considering what was the best way forward, conceptualised the suggestion box approach.
The approach was officially launched yesterday by Chandarpal in the company of some of her Commissioners. She disclosed that suggestion boxes will be placed in all 10 administrative regions. Although specific locations have not yet been identified in all of the regions, Chandarpal did inform that “our Commissioners will be looking at the different regions to ascertain the best spots in the public domain.”
She however noted that in Regions Four and Six, the Commission has identified locations including the General Post Office, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, National Library, University of Guyana Turkeyen and Tain campuses, and Giftland Mall.
The locked boxes will bear the name of the Women and Gender Equality Commission and will cater to persons who wish to report cases of sexual harassment at their places of work. Persons can simply write a letter detailing information about the case of harassment and drop it into the box.
According to Chandarpal, while a name is not required, a valid address must be included to help facilitate an investigation.
While the possibility exists that the locked boxes will be opened at least once per month, Chandarpal said that the Commission will be striving to do so fortnightly.
“The way it will work…a Commissioner will have the lock to those boxes opened and bring those reports to the office of the Commission and a Committee will look into it, ascertain what the issues are, and then we will have investigative officers who will follow through on that,” Chandarpal related.
“We are giving those persons who are victims of sexual harassment an opportunity to speak out or represent their issue without fear of intimidation,” said Chandarpal.
She yesterday emphasised that there are far too many of these cases occurring and “when we try to get to the bottom of these issues these persons are always backing out because they fear intimidation…we thought that we needed to be creative in looking at this issue.”
Additionally, Chandarpal said that the Commission has been looking at legislation and has been closely examining the Prevention of Discrimination Act of 1997. According to her yesterday “we have looked at that and we have gotten some guidance on it that if we tweak that legislation it is possible that we can use that.”
The expectation, Chandarpal said, is that a new legislation could be crafted to better represent persons who are victims of sexual harassment.
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