BYisrael on sexual harassment: Does real equality exist in society?
DEPUTY Chief Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael on Tuesday urged an audience to reflect on how they really view masculinity and femininity in the society.
She was delivering the feature address at a seminar on sexual harassment in the workplace, at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Lowlands.
The event was hosted by the Department of Labour in the Tobago House of Assembly.
The Ministry of Labour recently released a national workplace policy on sexual harassment in Trinidad and Tobago which, it envisages, will offer guidelines to organisations on how to treat with such matters in their respective environments.
There is a draft bill on sexual harassment in the workplace currently before Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, which is to be brought to the Parliament.
BYisrael told participants when one thinks about sexual harassment in the workplace, one often associates it with the unwanted interaction between men and women.
She noted the vast majority of cases involve women complaining about unwanted advances.
Reflecting briefly on this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Embracing Equity, BYisrael asked, “Do we honestly believe there is equity between men and women?”
She observed whenever people respond to the behaviours of boys and girls, they automatically give “preferential responses” to one versus the other.
BYisrael, who is also the Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, gave the example of a girl who displays boyish tendencies as well as young man who expresses feminine traits to illustrate her point.
She said while the girl may be praised for her strength and agility, the boy is usually labelled a “sissy.”
On the latter, she said, “It is not a term of endearment. It is a term that we are using to embarrass him because somehow in our eyes, this idea of behaving like a girl, is an insult to the little boy.”
BYisrael argued if real equity existed between the roles there would be no difference in the terms used to describe a girl who is behaving like a boy and the boy who is exhibiting feminine tendencies.
“So we have already started teaching our little boys and little girls that they are not equals. We have already started teaching our little boys and girls that to be feminine is less and to be masculine is more.”
Saying there are many theories about why the situation exists, BYisrael believes such attitudes do not allow sexual harassment policies to achieve their desired objectives.
“I wanted us to honestly and seriously think about what it takes to make the changes that we are taking about because we have these policies, we have these documents that are well-written, well-researched and we have to ask ourselves why is it not working?
“Why is it taking us such a long time to get there? What do we really need to do to get people to the point of not even needing a sexual harassment policy?”
“Because the fact that we need a policy means that something is going wrong and it means that we don’t know how to treat with the thing that is going wrong on our own, so we need other people to give us the guidelines on what to do.”
She urged participants to be truthful about how they view themselves and their children before implementing such a policy in their workplaces.
"BYisrael on sexual harassment: Does real equality exist in society?"