While the organization that advocates against domestic violence here has thrown its support behind the recently adopted Employment Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Bill 2017 it is warning that the legislation itself is not the be all and end all.
“Sexual harassment has been going on for ages, not just in the workplace but throughout the island, and women in particularly have accepted it in the workplace out of fear,” the new chairman of the SAVE Foundation Barbara Daniel-Goddard said last weekend at the foundation’s purple walk and rally held as part of activities to commemorate 16 days of activism against gender based violence.
“The legislation is a step in the right direction but it does not necessarily mean that it will stop sexual harassment, but it does mean that there is a consequence to the action,” she said.
A study conducted six years ago by researchers Marsha Hinds-Layne and Dr Dwayne Devonish of the University of the West Indies, found that approximately one-fifth of all workers in Barbados had fallen prey to sexual harassment on the job.
The findings of the study were only made public in late October this year amid widespread national debate over the sexual harassment legislation.
The new law makes provision for the protection of employees in the public and private sectors from sexual harassment at the workplace, provides a framework for the reporting of sexual harassment cases by employees, and establishes a procedure for the hearing and determination of matters related to sexual harassment.
Close to 50 women, men and children took to the boardwalk for last weekend’s rally, chanting “Speak Out, Reach Out”.
“Today we acknowledge the women whose lives have been cut short and those women who are still living with abusive partners and we are thankful for those who have escaped with their lives,” Daniel-Goddard told the rally, adding that support remained important as abused women carried emotional and physical scars.
The march was the only event being organised by the SAVE Foundation during the 16 days of activism which commenced on November 25 -the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs through to December 10, Human Rights Day.
“I am glad to report that this year we have not seen any reports of death caused by domestic violence . . . [but] make no mistake, domestic violence is a serious matter. It permeates all aspects of society like a plague with its impact affecting the mental, emotional, physical, financial and psychological well-being of the victim’s life,” Daniel-Goddard stated.