Chairman of the Women and Gender Equality Commission, (WGEC), Indra Chandarpal says that the Commission stands ready to provide support and guidance to persons, who suffer sexual harassment on the job.
Speaking with Kaieteur News on the matter, Chandarpal said the door of the Commission is open to those affected by sexual crimes in the workplace.
“We provide guidance and support. We encourage persons to report the matter, and make referrals when necessary.”
However, the WGEC Chairman noted that it is quite common for victims of sexual assault and harassment to resort to suffering in silence.
“Sexual harassment is more common than it is reported but the Women and Gender Equality Commission has been encouraging persons to come forward to tell their stories.
What we found is that in a number of instances people did not want to follow through with the cases because they were afraid of discrimination. In some cases, they did not want to lose their jobs.
“And we all know in Guyana jobs are not so readily available, so people resort to suffering in silence.”
Mrs. Chandarpal says nonetheless, WGEC continues to spread awareness with the hope of eliminating the scourge.
She noted that there is need for adequate legislation to deal with the issue. “While the Discrimination Act of 1997 has sections dealing with sexual harassment, we feel that there needs to be a stand-alone legislation.”
Implementation of legislation and the formulation of policies to enhance and protect the status of women, WGEC has completed a review of the gender legislations which recommends that Guyana needs to put in place a sexual harassment Legislation.
WGEC Commissioner, Nicole Cole, highlighted the need for adequate workplace policies which would help to curb the incidence of sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment in the workplace is a crime that affects employee morale, mental health and leads to depression and suicide; it is an ‘occupational phenomenon’ akin to the burnout syndrome experienced in toxic work environments.
“It is dehumanising, exploitative, and abusive and should be punished with the harshest methods.
“It violates women’s right to decent work even when she has gone to school and qualified herself when a man or men want her to spread her legs for a job promotion or salary increase…”
Cole noted that the International Labour Organisation, (ILO) conventions guarantee women’s right to decent work but sexual harassment in the workplace smacks of gross disrespect of that right.
Last Thursday, the WGEC Commissioner discussed sexual harassment in the workplace with E Division ranks in Linden.
The capacity building session was hosted by Rights of the Child Commission.
During the event, the WGEC representative drove home the point that sexual harassment is a crime.
She noted, too, that WGEC 2017-2018 statutory report recommends that a sexual harassment policy should be instituted at all places of work and educational institutions.
Her comments came in wake of the recent reports of sexual assault committed on women working at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, (CJIA).
The reports have garnered significant public attention, with some activist groups calling for the perpetrators of such crimes to be brought to justice.
The worker complained to management and it was only recently after enquires that she was told that the matter was “addressed.”
A few days after that article was published, another former female staffer came forth with her disturbing details of sexual assault and victimisation, which she endured at the hands of another top official of the airport.
Just one of the victims has made an official police report, but investigations are currently being conducted into the scandal.
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