Over the last several days social media has been alight with personal accounts of sexual harassment, rape, sexual abuse and physical and verbal abuse which stemmed from the above atrocities. Persons, mostly women from the Caribbean, related to the world of social media some of their untold stories. What started as a flame has been the catalyst for many a conversation, discussion, vlog and even newspaper article. Many persons have now finally found the strength and courage to relay their experiences to their friends, associates, strangers – the world.
These posts have been a source of encouragement for some and a reminder to others that they are not alone in their experiences. It has also caused countless persons to reflect, do some retrospection and introspection and realise that they are or were a part of the problem. Many persons have apologised. Many have openly supported the victims and condemned the culprits. Society was also not left unscathed. We know that often at the heart of these issues is how we were conditioned and thus society was also thrown into the fire. In light of all of this, I have undertaken to set out below what the law offers to the victims of these inhumane, highly offensive acts.
The Minor Offences Act Cap. 137 at Section 2 (1) says ‘ Any person who…
(c) wanders in the public streets or highways or in any place of public resort and behaves in a riotous or indecent manner;
(d) in any street, highway or public place accosts a passenger and offers to take him to the house or residence of a prostitute;
(e) loiters in any street highway or public place accosts a passenger and offers to take him to the house or residence of a prostitute;
(f) in any street, highway or public place, including a beach, without lawful authority or excuse (the proof whereof shall lie on the person accused), accosts, molests, threatens or harasses any person or follows him about;
commits an offence and is liable on conviction before a magistrate to a penalty of $2500 or to imprisonment for 2 years or both.’
Section 2(2) states that in this Section, ‘ “harass” means to
- Use words, gestures and actions that annoy, alarm or abuse a person;
- Insult, taunt or challenge a person in a manner likely to offend;
- Use obscene and profane language to intimidate a person; or
- Disturb or irritate especially by continued and repeated acts.’
A Sexual Harassment (Prevention) Bill is also in the works and is expected to afford greater protection to employees against sexual harassment in the workplace.
– Kara-Je Kellman