Not all sexual offences are the same
On International Women's Day, March 8, we saw protests all across the world by women who are still fighting to change many laws that still create obstacles for them to achieve their full potential.
Chief among these are sexual offences. With the advent of various groups like #LifeInLeggings and the #MeToo movement, women have been speaking out about their experiences to shed light on these heinous acts and hold perpetrators responsible.
These conversations are still uncomfortable and while, overall, the women receive support for their bravery of coming forward, there is pushback from some people who disagree with how the movements operate.
It's important for us to understand what we are talking about because not all sexual offences are alike, and it's vital that we recognise the differences and treat them accordingly.
DEFINING SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Someone shouting sexual comments to a woman walking on the sidewalk, or a manager making sexual advances to subordinates are examples of sexual harassment.
Sexual misconduct is a broad term encompassing any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, coercion, or manipulation. It can be committed by a person of any gender, and it can occur between people of the same gender.
Sexual assault is loosely defined as the unwanted sexual contact that can sometimes include rape. It can sometimes be violent, however, it's not always the case.
Sexual assault can also be inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (whether because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or on a person who places the assailant (such as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority.
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability, or is below the legal age of consent
Jamaican laws around sexual offences are currently being reviewed by Parliament and, hopefully, we will see provisions made to better address the trauma that the victims go through and apply the relevant punishments to these heinous crimes.