Tackling sexual harassment at work

A code of conduct and procedures to address sexual harassment in the workplace was formulated by the Employer’s Federation of Ceylon in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and with the assistance of a tripartite committee in 2003.

The code is a guideline to employers with information on how to deal with situations of sexual harassment in the workplace. It is a comprehensive document that takes into account the obligations of an employer in maintaining a workplace free of sexual harassment. It reiterates that companies shall not tolerate any form of harassment and shall ensure the provision of a safe working environment for its employees.

The code makes it obligatory on employers to take measures to ensure that employees are aware of sexual harassment policies which in place and that sexual harassment shall be treated as a form of misconduct that shall be severely dealt with. It also recognises that an employee has a right to work with dignity at the workplace and recognises it as a fundamental right.

The responsibilities of the management are also spelt out in the code. The management is required to review the policy from time to time and to provide guidance and support to managers when dealing with instances of sexual harassment. The managers are also responsible to monitor and review the application of this policy and to ensure compliance with it.

The code of conduct also attempts to provide a definition to sexual harassment. It states that sexual harassment is ‘conduct which is unwelcome, unsolicited, unacceptable, unreasonable and offensive to the recipient, of an overtly or covertly sexual nature.’ It also states that sexual harassment affects the dignity of both men and women at work and makes it clear that the harassment can be directed at both men and women. It also specifies that it includes conduct of superiors, colleagues and subordinates.

The code then spells out the various types of behaviour that maybe categorised as sexual harassment in the workplace. Conduct such as sending suggestive electronic mail, posters, graffiti, indecent exposure and sexual gestures maybe considered as forms of sexual harassment. Similarly, obscene or offensive language, lewd comments, sexual innuendoes, nuisance calls, correspondence, rumours, gossip and slander can amount to sexual harassment. The more obvious forms of sexual harassment such as pinching, squeezing, touching, kissing and molesting are also laid down.

Unwelcome sexually determined behaviour amounts to sexual harassment. This includes a demand or request for sexual favours conveyed by words or action is a form of sexual harassment that is especially dangerous in the workplace. It also includes conduct which creates a hostile working environment for the recipient. The code also states that sexual harassment is a criminal offence under Sri Lankan law. If found guilty of sexual harassment, upon conviction, a sentence of up to five years and a fine may be imposed, in addition to the payment of compensation to the victim.

The code lays down that a company must appoint a panel to address formal complaints of sexual harassment. Such formal complaints must be in writing and the panel may conduct a hearing where both parties shall be heard. The complainant and the harasser have the right to representation and also to an impartial hearing.

The panel shall determine the disciplinary action to be taken upon the conclusion of the inquiry which may include counselling, a verbal or written warning or dismissal. The recipient may also take informal action by informing the harasser that he or she finds the action of the harasser offensive or unwelcome.

The policy against sexual harassment in the work place was re-launched by the Chamber of Commerce and the Employer’s Federation of Ceylon on December 7, 2007.

(Shyamala Gomez works as the gender advisor to the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka)


Ban air horns now!

Noise pollution in the city has gone beyond all acceptable levels. Colombo is considered the noisiest city not only in the sub-continent but also in the rest of Asia.

Readers may be surprised to learn that the use of air horns is banned in the big cities in India. Even Karachi controls noise levels strictly. Why is it that only us who live in the city of Colombo have to suffer this health hazard?

The authorities have been written to but they must be deaf for I have not even had an acknowledgement of my letters; many have been written to the newspapers with no effect. The ‘big boys’ do not hear the horns as they live away in secluded areas of the city and when they travel in their posh limos, their shutters are double glazed so they do not have to suffer like us ordinary citizens.

The Supreme Court and the new guardian of citizen’s rights, our respected Chief Justice, has ruled against noise pollution in the form of the abuse of loudspeakers – we are indeed grateful to him and remember him in our prayers as we who unfortunately live close to a mosque and two Buddhist temples cannot express the gratitude we feel.

We are now not awakened at 5 a.m., nor do we have to suffer all-night chanting (incidentally I am a Buddhist but disturbing a neighbourhood does not help us acquire any merit). It is time our Buddhists understood that Buddhism is sila, samadhi and bhavana me pangna, or the practice of the noble Eight Fold Path (morality), meditation and the attainment of wisdom through meditation.

The discourses of the Buddha should perhaps be recited in Sinhala for the people to understand and practice, not merely chanted in an ancient foreign tongue – there is no room for ‘mantra’ in Buddhism. Buddhism is the most rational religion in the world.

However that maybe, this letter is to please request the authorities to put an end to the air horn menace. If you are unfortunate enough to live alongside a bus route in the city, you will be subject to incessant, loud, ear-splitting horning which has caused many of us senior citizens to fall ill. The air horn must be banned.

The next curse, if one might call it that, is the exhausts of buses and lorries – there are no silencers anymore. Surely vehicles were fitted with silencers  to  ensure less sound. They now seek to emit maximum sound by removing the silencers and fitting some other gadgets.

I have written to the Police Department but they have taken no action though they must know that these buses are breaking the law. The Police officers at junctions and on the beat just look on, perhaps too scared to stop the bus lest it is owned by a senior Police officer. If only the IG sends his PA to stand near the bus stand at Dharmapala Mawatha near Colpetty Market on any evening, the man will have to see an ENT surgeon.

It appears to us unfortunate citizens that it is only the activist Supreme Court that could save us from this infernal menace; more strength to the CJ’s elbow. Thank you for what you have done for us up to now and thank you in anticipation too.
KG Senior citizen


Saving cows

Saving cows only, in a lovely Buddhist country is incomplete and incongruous, while goats, hogs and chicken are legally slaughtered, for food. All religious leaders, from Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha, have not disapproved the consumption of animal flesh, for they wisely knew that man was an omnivore. What they frowned on was cruelty to animals, for animals too were sentient. Muslims do not eat pork, following the death of the Prophet after a meal that contained pork. Prince Siddhartha was against wanton slaying like hunting game for sport. He too ate flesh in his early years though he shunned it later when he approached Budhahood. Jesus was born in a stable in a habitation that reared farm animals, and ate flesh.

All eating houses serve flesh, mainly chicken, probably in the mistaken belief that it is only a trivial, venial offence against the taking of life. The Mohammedian engages in ‘halal’ slaughter by saying a prayer before the act. Beef, mutton, and pork are served on order. Most customers avoid beef for the cow is the ‘kiri amma’ on whose milk the weaned human baby is fed on. That however, is not the best practice, for later scientific investigation has found that the milk of the cow brings on allergies in children and also adults. Sudden inexplicable deaths in babies have been traced to cow’s milk. The safe milk for the human is the milk of the goat which has been found to be next to the human mother’s milk. All allergies brought on by the milk of the cow are rectified by changing to goat’s milk. Recently, some friends went for lunch to an eating house named ‘Raja Bojun,’ before going they telephoned the restaurant and found that they served only chicken and sea food. Beef, mutton and pork were available, but served only on order. They lunched at ‘Raja Bojun.’ They said it would have been a gourmet meal if beer was available. It is a pity that religious piety is creeping into Sri Lankan society. One goes to a public restaurant in the hope that all food required by the public will be available on the menu.

Recently, a Sunday newspaper carried a story that a business house was to open a Cattle Protection Centre in the heart of Colombo 4. Did the Colombo Municipality permit a cattle pen within the city, especially a highly populated, residential area? Beef and flesh appears to be big business where the police the public health inspector and the politician have a say. Why are cattle kept in a restricted area at De Fonseka Place? Are they being fattened for slaughter? If so where? The Dematagoda abattoir is some distance away. Will some animal lover purchase an animal there to be set free as a ‘ping haraka,’ one let out in a ‘home?’

Saving animals from slaughter does not make one a good Buddhist. Following and living by the tenets of what the Gautama preached to his disciples will take one up to the heavens, the abode of the Gods. Mighty America began with the cowboy and the ranch. Let Sri Lanka build up its agriculture and animal husbandry under the Rata Nagamu programme, and someday soon be the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean.’
Sydney Ranatunge


Anandasangaree on the right to live as equals

I write with reference to the statement by V. Anandasangaree, the President of the TULF, published in The Nation, Sunday, January 27, 2008.

V. Anandasangaree states in paragraph three of his statement: “We have joined this assembly today to show our solidarity on behalf of the Tamil people, for the re-birth of a nation where we, the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers and members of other small groups live as equals in all respects...”

In my opinion V. Anandasangaree has failed to say “...live as equals in all respects in whatever part of the country they choose to live in.”

This is very important because, a large part of the Tamils live peacefully among the Sinhalese, Muslims etc. in Colombo.

The question I pose to V. Anandasangaree is whether the Sinhalese, Muslims etc. will have the same rights to live peacefully in the North among the majority Tamil people under a proposed Federal system.
Ananda Dharmapala


Differentiating between the Tamils and Tigers

I wish to draw the attention of the Editor with regard to the mistake of differentiating between the Tamils and the Tigers. There is only one difference between them. That is, the Tigers are armed while the ordinary Tamils are not. The Tigers came forward to sacrifice their lives to achieve the aspirations of the Tamils. They are fighting state violence against the Tamils, with arms. Even if they are destroyed, the unarmed Tamils will be bent on achieving the aspirations – the right of self determination, homeland campaign against colonization, discrimination etc. It is better to admit that the Tigers are fighting on behalf of the Tamils. They are part of the Tamil speaking people. The Tamil people, TNA, Tigers are all the same.
Colombo 10


Do we now need an APRC at all?

Soon after the heavily-flawed Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) has been abrogated comes another monster, the APRC. Supposed to be by all the parties, although it leaves out the major parties, the UNP and the JVP, it is in reality the independent proposal of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, according to the information now being revealed.

After having got rid of one monster, we are now threatening the country with yet another monster, at a time when we have enough and more troubles already – A truly unworthy and unnecessary exercise.

It must never be forgotten that this APRC or the 13th Amendment, was unleashed on Sri Lanka by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and was totally rejected by the people and our country at that time. The country was initially shocked by it. It is indeed strange now that this same act is now being rushed through by the very people – Mahinda Rajapaksa and others – who totally rejected it.

This was the time the LTTE received the blessings and support of India for what it was doing in the north against Sri Lanka, and little Sri Lanka was virtually bullied accepting it. Of course, the LTTE did not hesitate to kill Gandhi. Since then even the Indian tide has changed and today the Indian Congress seems to be becoming a little more concerned about LTTE terrorism.

Even if India says it supports the 13th Amendment it forced on Sri Lanka, why should Sri Lanka have to accept it? Can the people of this country be blamed if they want to rethink it or even reject it? Do we not have this right? Must we subject ourselves to India or even the international community?

Basically, this is hardly the time for the country and its people to think of the APRC. We just do not need it. We have a war on our hands. Now that all our efforts to bring the Tigers to the negotiating table have failed, and the lives of our people continue to be in danger, is there any purpose in our talking peace with the LTTE?

We should forget about talking peace and carry on retaliating. The country has no alternative but to destroy the Tigers and then engage in what has to be done to rid the north of the dictatorship that the Tigers have plunged the north into for the last 25 years.
From here the President has to look into graver issues, such as the problems of our people, particularly the poor. They cannot bear the burden of the heavy cost of living. The people are being crushed under this soaring cost of living. Many are perhaps going without at least one meal a day.

It seems tragic that whilst the people are having the hardest time of our lives, the country continues with its 225 Members of Parliament.

Look at the extravagance of Mihin Air, the wasteful expenditure on the Members of Parliament and the ministers enjoying themselves on trips all over the world, the VAT scandal. Hardly any effort is being made to halt corruption, and even those who are held responsible are not even being questioned about the huge looses that have taken place while they were in office.

Then we have the Constitutional Council (CC), which can now be appointed, and the President has hardly made any move to make any arrangements to make the CC function. The President should take immediate steps to instal the CC.

It is time for the President to give the country the right leadership and take immediate steps to call a halt to the suffering the people of the country are now undergoing and give them relief.

It is time for the President to reflect on what the people and the country are now going through – and have been going through for the last two years – and to realise that he must lose no time in granting them relief.

It is not possible for the people to endure the ongoing crisis indefinitely. Unless some relief is immediately forthcoming, then it will be matter of time before the people take the government to task.
Maurice Lord
Colombo 13.


Is there a hoodoo?

Sri Lanka’s Parliament was re-located at Jayewardenepura Kotte in 1983.
Since then, approximately 500 members have had the privilege of occupying a chair in its august Chamber.
Of this, approximately 50 have died in office - most of them violently.
This would be a record for any legislature anywhere in the world.
Should the Kattadiyas be called in?
Nihal Ratnayake


The right identity
A Sinhalese
A Tamil
A Muslim and
A Burgher
Make Sri Lanka one whole nation
In that nation we live
Calling ourselves
A Sinhalese
A Tamil
A Muslim and
A Burgher
Cannot we ever overcome
This way of thinking
And call this nation of people
Only as Sri Lankans?
How beautiful it would be
When we can all cheer
Under the Sri Lankan flag
The Sri Lankan race!

Arundathy Gunawardena-





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