International Women’s Resource Network (IWRN) head Adriana Sandrine Issac-Rattan says the organisation welcomes the move by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to introduce new laws to criminalise sexual harassment, voyeurism and revenge posting of nude photos and videos.
In an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Issac-Rattan said she hopes these new laws will bring justice to victims of sexual harassment.
“What we have been experiencing and this is with two of our clients, is that women who have been affected by sexual harassment in one way or another, sometimes feel threatened by the abuser or the harasser, particularly if the harasser is at a high level, and she complains, it goes nowhere,” Issac-Rattan said.
She said in one particular case, the victim of sexual harassment was constantly threatened that she would be victimised if she moved forward with her allegations that she had been harassed over a four-month period by a superior.
“Every time they met, she would be threatened by making comments that she wouldn’t get promoted, she wouldn’t get vacation. Eventually, she said she would drop it even when we were willing to take it further, she said no, because the harasser started sending threatening voice messages to her.”
However, she said she hopes when this slew of legislation becomes law, it can be easily and efficiently enforced.
“Sometimes the legislation is there and the act that the legislation governs happens and the victim doesn’t get the kind of justice they deserve. We are saying yes, while we welcome legislation, we want to ensure that it serves the purpose that it is supposed to serve and it’s not just another piece of legislation sitting there while we have victims suffering in silence.”
She said she is also hopeful that once these laws are passed, offenders will be made to face the penalty for their crime, despite their status in an organisation or society.
Attorney and activist Jonathon Bhaggan said he also welcomed the introduction of new legislation. However, he said cultural norms need to be changed for any new legislation to have a real effect.
“As we know, the criminal justice system is overburdened and passing a bunch of new laws by itself is not going to change anything unless we have a change in social behaviour to go with it,” Bhaggan said.
Bhaggan is proposing social engineering is done by creating a national volunteer policy.
“There is a cultural change that needs to take place beyond criminal law because the law can only go so far. We need a national volunteer policy, where we train thousands of volunteers to go out and be peer councillors and encourage men, if they are in a relationship and they can’t handle the emotions of breaking up and they want to do something really crazy, instead of going on to carry out that act, there will be somebody in their community to talk them down from committing that sort of crime.”
Meanwhile, administrator for the regional NGO Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN), Kevin Liverpool, said the organisation was very encouraged by the Government’s action.
“We are very encouraged that the Government would take such steps to make such a statement that these behaviours are undesired, unwanted and should not be condoned,” Liverpool said.