Respect Jamaica Survey of Discrimination in Jamaica as Sexual Harassment Bill Looms

“In my 32 years of working with children in Jamaica, and youths, particularly those from poor communities, I have seen the most blatant examples of the class bias. The young people see it, they live it and they feel it in the most basic ways”

Children’s advocate Betty Ann Blaine as she responded to the findings of the Respect Jamaica and UNICEF survey

Jamaica will attend the 118th session (The Jamaica Gleaner, 2016, October 14) of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Committee) conference, which will be held in Geneva next week. At this conference, they’ll have to given an account of the handling of human rights issues such as gender discrimination and the treatment of the disabled.


This may sound strange, but discrimination based on Class colour and Gender is very real in Jamaica. It affected Millennials and Generation X more than any other group, as we’re the graduates (Deer, 2016, January 13) that can’t seem to find a decent job (Deer, 2016, June 10) other than in a Call center.

But how bad is it?

Respect Jamaica and UNICEF mobile Survey – Discrimination alive and well in Out of Many One People

A mobile youth survey was conducted by Respect Jamaica (Hall, 2016, April 3) in association with the local office of UNICEF between February 29th and March 3rd 2016. They used Digicel’s customer base in Jamaica, canvassing the opinions of some 3,024 respondents, the majority of whom were females.

The Respect Jamaica/UNICEF survey revealed these results back in April 2016:

  • 86% in the age group (14 to 40) have faced some form of discrimination in Jamaica
  • 68% of that number faced class discrimination in Jamaica
  • 59% of that number faced sexual orientation in Jamaica
  • 57% of that number faced disabilities in Jamaica
  • 57% of that number faced political affiliation in Jamaica

Not surprisingly, the age groups within the survey were split on what type of discrimination affected them the most:

  • The 14 to 19 age group face disabilities and sexual orientation discrimination in Jamaica
  • The 20 to 40 age group faces class and sexual orientation discrimination in Jamaica

Some respondents were discriminated against based on their gender, religion and race but were not major issues. Gender discrimination is indeed real but religion and Race is still very real.

Discrimination against rastafarians, such as the case of Greg Campbell (Watson, 2016, July 28), which has resulted for increasing calls for effective anti-discrimination legislation (The Jamaica Observer, 2016, August 3) in Jamaica, giving people facing religious discrimination tools to defend themselves.

We’re slowly becoming more like our motto thanks to increasing Entrepreneurship (Deer, 2016, May 6) opportunities. So despite the ambition of the Government to make Jamaicans employable anywhere by learning different languages (Deer, 2016, October 3) we continue to disempower our workforce due to increasing levels of discrimination

So how serious is this issue?

Class Discrimination – An Everyday journey for people from the Inner City

I myself have experienced some class discrimination, especially as it comes to getting work. For me, this is indeed a daily struggle, as I find I’m discriminated against based on my address as well as how I dress, which is fairly casual actually, with a dash of Clarendon style with my hat and glasses.

So says human-rights advocate Jaevion Nelson, quote: “Every day when people step out of their homes they have to prepare themselves to deal with people discriminating against them. People experience discrimination on a daily basis at school, work, church, in our communities, on the bus, in the supermarket, restaurants, social and entertainment spaces”.

Classism has also affected young Jamaicans from uptown to the Inner City in their search for employment, resulting in many only being able to find work in call centers only, as Jaevion Nelson points out: “Classism is rife in Jamaica and is not being dealt with. We see the impact of class privileges, for example, play out in our education system, one’s ability to find and retain work, and just how we treat each other on a daily basis”.

The result is frustration, with many young people from the inner city ending up in fights with others as well as with the Jamaica Police and even their own parents and relatives, as Jaevion Nelson points out: “If you listen to some of the reasons why students, or young people, in their communities end up in a fight, someone saying something discriminatory about them, their parents, siblings, or friend is quite often the problem”.

It gets worse when you have to go into store to do shopping, with many of the security guards trailing you, expecting you to steal something simply because of how you are dressed, as Children’s advocate Betty Ann Blaine points out: “The class bias in Jamaica is very palpable. A young man from the inner-city community of Grants Pen in St Andrew once told me, ‘Ms Blaine, you know that racism is a real thing in Jamaica. When we go in certain stores they racially profile us and the security stalk we like them think we a must thief’, so I know the reality of the class bias that the children live”.

I often avoid this by simply speaking better English (Deer, 2016, June 1), thanks mainly to my listening to BBC when I was going to Glenmuir High School. But Sexual discrimination leads to other sexual crimes, such as Transaction sex (Deer, 2016, August 24), with young people having to give older males sexual favours to get work and eventually rape.

Also, I shop online (Deer, 2013, September 15) as I find I get less hassling when I go to pick up my stuff at Shipme headquarters; just pay, grab and  go!

Gender Discrimination – Sexual Harassment Legislation needs teeth

Along with discrimination against the disabled, this may be the worse for of discrimination.

Women of society face hurdles to being able to work without having their supervisor put their hands up their skirt to quote social worker Gloria Merdith who heads the western Jamaica-based non-governmental organization Children of Faith: “Sexual orientation leads to the worst form of discrimination in Jamaica, and it is related to the lack of parenting skills where parents cannot guide their children”.

A Sexual Discrimination bill has been Table in Parliament (Luton, 2015, December 9) in the House of Representatives on December 8, 2015 under the previous PNP Government in December 2015. The Sexual Discrimination bill proposes fines of $500,000 or one month in jail.

However, a precise definition of Sexual harassment is hard to pin down, with many commentators stating that it was the nature of Jamaican men (Robinson, 2016, October 9) to seek to have sex with women, just that their approach is wrong.

It’s also very difficult to prove. The Government of Jamaica needs to deal with Discrimination of all forms in Jamaica by empowering people with legislation to enable safe reporting of Discrimination, albeit legislation (Cross, 2016, April 20) isn’t all. Thus public education and sensitization (Nelson, 2016, October 13) are needed to identify, prevent and take action in response to incidents of sexual harassment.

Additionally, economic incentives need to be put in place to encourage more employees to employee people from the Inner City community.


  1. Cross, J. (2016, April 20). Sexual Harassment Bill Is Not A Destination- Hanna. Retrieved from
  2. Deer, L. (2013, September 15). How to ship things to Jamaica after you’re purchase them online. Retrieved from
  3. Deer, L. (2016, August 24). How WhatsApp is fuelling Transaction Sex among Jamaican Teenagers. Retrieved from
  4. Deer, L. (2016, January 13). UOPD UWI Graduate Trace Study reveals Bad choices, Entrepreneurship and brain-drain in 2016. Retrieved from
  5. Deer, L. (2016, June 1). Why Jamaican boys Dislike CSEC English and Why Oral Exams are necessary. Retrieved from
  6. Deer, L. (2016, June 10). How to find work in Jamaica at Call Centers – A Brief Listing of Call Center Job Openings in New Kingston. Retrieved from
  7. Deer, L. (2016, May 6). How 9-y-o and Millennials in Jamaica are becoming CEO Entrepreneurs to avoid the Cubicle Rat Race. Retrieved from
  8. Hall, A. (2016, April 3). Broken – Class, Colour And Gender Discrimination Hurting Our Youth. Retrieved from
  9. Luton, D. (2015, December 9). Sexual Harassment Bill Tabled In House. Retrieved from
  10. Nelson, J. (2016, October 13). Our Women And Girls Remain Vulnerable – #PlanForHer’. Retrieved from
  11. Robinson, G. (2016, October 9). Don’t Harass Me About Sexual Harassment. Retrieved from
  12. Watson, S. (2016, July 28). Fired for not cutting locks? – Rastafarian man cries discrimination. Retrieved from
  13. The Jamaica Observer. (2016, August 3). Time for effective anti-discrimination laws in Jamaica. Retrieved from
  14. Deer, L. (2016, October 3). Ministry of Education to make Foreign Languages compulsory up to Grade 9 by 2017. Retrieved from
  15. The Jamaica Gleaner. (2016, October 14). Jamaica To Account For How It Handles Human Rights Issues. Retrieved from



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