Barbados’ largest public sector union has welcomed Government’s tabling in the Senate Wednesday of the Employment Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Bill, 2017.
Under the Bill, which was introduced in the Upper House by the Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, the “use of sexually suggestive words, comments, jokes, gestures or actions that annoy, alarm or abuse a person” may be considered sexual harassment, so too “the initiation of uninvited physical contact with a person; the initiation of unwelcome sexual advances or the requests of sexual favours from a person; asking a person intrusive questions that are of a sexual nature that pertain to that person’s private life; transmitting sexually offensive writing or material of any kind; making sexually offensive telephone calls to a person; or any other sexually suggestive conduct of an offensive nature”.
The move by Government was immediately welcomed by independent Senator and former General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union Sir Roy Trotman, who suggested it was long overdue.
In a separate statement today, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) through its gender affairs committee, hailed the development as “a massive breakthrough” in the fight against sexual harrassment in the workplace.
In giving the thumbs up to the legislation, the NUPW also said the Bill must be viewed within the context of the ongoing fight for equal rights for men and women in the world of work and in Barbadian society in general.
“We also congratulate the Minister on the structure of the Bill, maintaining the gender neutral approach, which, in our view, makes this Bill fair for both women and men of our public service, as they have the right to work without fear of molestation and sexual harassment and fear of any kind in the workplace,” the union said while urging Government to press ahead with the introduction of the promised Discrimination Bill, which Byer-Suckoo said was coming right after the sexual harassment legislation to address discrimination on the basis of gender, race and nationality.
However, the Minister of Labour made it clear in the Upper House on Wednesday that Government was not opening up the door to legalizing homosexuality.
“That is not the aim of this legislation. That is not what this legislation is doing,” she emphasized.