Jamaica’s Sexual Harassment Act 2019 needs to be broadened to make catcalling illegal, and stalking a form a sexual harassment.
That’s the proposal coming Policy and advocacy officer of the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) and gender advocate, Patrick Lalor.
Lalor put forward these changes to the law at a joint select committee in parliament on Wednesday.
He said the proposed legislation, in its current form, provided protection from sexual harassment in workplaces but left women vulnerable to unwanted attention and aggression in public spaces.
“This is important as there is much evidence to show that street harassment is one of the most frequent forms of sexual harassment,” said Lalor.
“I want to suggest that it is not for us to decide that if persons are being violated because it’s culturally acceptable that we should ignore it. I think it is the duty of the legislature to find ways how we can address these concerns that have brought cultural implications.”
Lalor cited data showing that approximately 68 per cent of harassment occurred on the street and called for lawmakers to protect women and girls in spaces where they were most susceptible to intimidation and attack.
“We find people having to change their route and mode of operation, going to a different supermarket each week simply because they are trying to avoid passing the garage, passing the bar where the guys hang out to avoid being harassed,” Lalor said.