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Jamaica: Affection or assault – Butt slaps, touching new frontier of debate as harassment law passed

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck is hoping that the Sexual Harassment Bill that was passed on Tuesday will send a clear signal about new norms of engagement with women, but he has serious concerns that the tribunal established to review cases will face challenges.

The legislation is expected to mark a major cultural shift in a country that has high levels of tolerance for sexual touching, catcalling, and suggestive paralanguage.

Finding the balance between an affectionate touch and an inappropriate slap could prove difficult in the early stages when the law takes effect, said the justice minister.

“There is no reason why any employer or any man should be slapping a woman on her bottom or on her chest, so that is the extreme, but we cannot ignore where an affectionate touch on the shoulder or on the elbow or a squeeze of the hand is deemed to be sexual harassment,” Chuck said prior to the passage of the bill in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The Sexual Harassment (Protection and Prevention) Act, 2021 passed the committee stage with 10 amendments.

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