I was reading Gender issues at the workplace, when came to my mind : But what’s the case in Mauritius? So let’s investigate a bit in this burning issue…

Firstly, What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment refers to “unwanted sexual advances, whether touches, looks, pressures to have sex, or even jokes” (Henslin & Nelson, 1996, p.300). It can be of two forms. The first one, known as quid pro quo harassment occurs when the harassment is linked to the granting of a benefit, for example, a woman is pressured to have sex with her employer in order to get a promotion.

The second type refers to sexual harassment that is not linked to any privilege, but that results in a hostile working environment.

Sexual Harassment Guidelines

(Source: Microsoft Encarta 2008 Student Premium Edition)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued the following guidelines in 1980 to answer questions about what constitutes illegal sexual harassment. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 1986 case (Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson) that sexual harassment is a form of discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a coworker, or a nonemployee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

Can I be a victim of Sexual Harassment?

Anybody can be a victim of sexual harassment, be it a man or a woman, heterosexual or homosexual, but women are the ones who are more likely to experience sexual harassment routinely

The issue of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is not an issue to be taken lightly. It can have disastrous consequences on the victims’ physical as well as mental health and it certainly adversely affects the productivity of the worker who stands as victim. Laws have been passed in many countries to protect workers against the risk of sexual harassment and employers have been included in the fight against this form of discrimination.

[Renzetti & Curran, 1998, pp.204]

The case in Mauritius

Equal Opportunities Bill

This  bill is currently the headlines in the Media in Mauritius and in the Agenda of the National Assembly of Mauritius. Here is some quotes from the article in Lexpress on this bill (they are in french):

Exit donc les discriminations sur les bases de statut, nom, âge, sexe, caste, couleur, croyances, opinion politique ou encore orientation sexuelle. Un projet de loi promettant une île Maurice parfaite, diraient certains.

’Equal Opportunities Bill prévoit la création de deux entités: l’Equal Opportunities Division et un Equal Opportunities Tribunal. Le premier sera rattaché au Human Rights Commission et se verra conférer les responsabilités de promouvoir l’élimination des discriminations, entreprendre des investigations dans des cas de discriminations rapportées, entre autres.

Tout comme les prérogatives de la Human Rights Commission, l’Equal Opportunities Division peut référer tout cas au Directeur des Poursuites Publiques eu vue des actions légales.

Excerpts from the bill:

“The object of this Bill is to ensure that every person has an equal opportunity to attain his objectives in various spheres of activities and that no person is placed, or finds himself, at a disadvantage, by reason of his status, namely, his age, caste, colour, creed, ethnic origin, impairment, marital status, place of origin, political opinion, race, sex or sexual orientation.”

The interesting part related to our blog post is Section V of  the bill: Part V: Sexual Harrassment

(1) A person sexually harasses another person where, in circumstances in which a reasonable person would have foreseen that the other person would be humiliated, offended or intimidated, he –
(a) makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for a sexual favour, to another person; or

(b) engages in any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature towards another person.

Acts of Sexual Harrassment

(1) No employer, or agent of an employer, shall sexually harass an employee or a person seeking employment from the employer.
(2) No job contractor or principal shall sexually harass a contract worker.
(3) No employee shall sexually harass a fellow employee or a person seeking employment from his employer.
(4) No agent of an employment agency shall sexually harass a person in the course of providing, or offering to provide, any of the agency’s services to that person.
(5) No person referred to in section 15, or his employee, shall sexually harass another person in relation to the conferment, renewal, extension, revocation or withdrawal of an authorisation or qualification referred to in that section.
(6) (a) No member of the staff of an educational institution shall sexually harass a student at the institution or a person who is seeking admission as a student.
(b) No student at an educational institution shall sexually harass another student or a member of the staff.
23

(7) No person referred to in section 18 shall sexually harass another person in the course of providing or offering to provide goods, services or facilities to the other person.
(8) No person referred to in section 19 shall sexually harass another person in the course of providing, or offering to provide, accommodation to the other person.
(9) No person shall sexually harass another person in the course of dealing with the other person in connection with –
(a) disposing, or offering to dispose of, any immovable property to the other person; or
(b) acquiring, or offering to acquire, any immovable property from the other person.
(10) No officer or member of a company, partnership, “société”, registered association or club shall sexually harass a member or other member, as the case may be, or a person seeking to become a member.

(11) Any person who contravenes this section shall commit an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding 100,000 rupees and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

Concluding words

Nobody would like to be sexually harassed, not only in the workplace but also at school or university campus. One would naturally like to work for an equal opportunity Employer. The Equal Opportunities bill claim to ensure that every person has an equal opportunity to attain his objectives in various fields of activities. Will this be the case in real? Must Honourable Rama Valayden  congratulated for his courage, boldness and audacity on this issue? lets wait and see…

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