Editorial

Did no one tell our women 'parson christen him pickney fus'?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

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The tabling yesterday of the Sexual Harassment Bill 2019 comes after much anticipation.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, speaking at the high-level meeting of the 108th Session of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conference on June 12, in Geneva, Switzerland, signalled that the country was nearer to rolling out the legislation, and we see it was not all talk.

The measures therein — aimed at safeguarding the nation's workers, particularly the most vulnerable — have been long awaited, and that we have been without such entries in law is an indictment on all our legislators.

The #MeToo wave did not exactly skirt our shores, as have recent hurricanes and weather systems. The destruction, however, has been personal and largely contained.

Reported impropriety at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts has brought the hushed discussions back out in the public where it should be, including before Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC).

The real disappointment over the years is the lack of political will to see this matter through with adequate alacrity, as has defined other Bills passing through the House.

This legislation, while notably gender-neutral, no doubt should be of particular importance to members of the fairer sex.

We boast being a nation with a large percentage of female managers. An ILO report released in January 2015 indicated that Jamaica had more women managers than any other country in the world. The study found that 59.3 per cent of company managers were women.

In the last parliamentary election some 24 women offered themselves as candidates; 11 won their contests, and they were recently joined by the winner of the Portland Eastern by-election. For this we have received commendations from the global Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Jamaica is proud of having benefited from the wisdom of females holding other high offices such as prime minister; attorney general; ministers of justice, labour, tourism, education, and other Cabinet positions; chief justice; director of public prosecutions; acting commissioner of police; director of protocol; as well as heads of major commercial, multilateral and civil society institutions.

And yet the agitation to see this Bill through has not received their firepower. What have they truly done for themselves lately? It would seem the women are unaware of the local adage “Parson christen him pickney fus”.

We note, though, that former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller did bring the issue to the House in 2015, but even as head of the Government it fell off the table and did not regain much prominence.

Nonetheless, we are happy that the Bill has now been drafted and tabled in the House and trust that it will not suffer the interminable treatment of similar matters, with verbose and long-winded debate, and be again thrown on the heap when parliamentarians get into election mode.

This Parliament — especially the female Members — must charge itself to see this converted into law as quickly as is humanly possible.

We look to see if there is the political will to make it happen this round.


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