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Statement of Purpose

A statement of purpose, also known as a legislative preamble, statement of objects, or statement of aims, sets the stage for the entire piece of legislation. The following elements are important to a strong and inclusive statement of purpose:

  • A clear statement of the purpose of the legislation as grounded in women’s right to be free from gender-based violence and discrimination (Reference to international and regional principles of non-discrimination can assist in stating the purpose and in providing language to help with later interpretation of the law);
  • Description of the negative impact of sexual harassment on women’s safety, health, economic security, and equal status in society;
  • Recognition of the negative impact of sexual harassment on society, including decreases in productivity, loss of diversity, increased costs of sick time and other leave, and legal bills, for example; and
  • Recognition that sexual harassment has a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups such as younger women, migrants, minorities, the poor, those with precarious legal status, and other marginalized communities.

The following are examples of the ways that countries have drafted their statements of purpose relative to sexual harassment legislation.

  • Australia’s law sets out the objectives of the legislation and refers specifically to international human rights principles and obligations:

The objects of this Act are:

(a) to give effect to certain provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and

(b) to eliminate, so far as is possible, discrimination against persons on the ground of sex, marital status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy in the areas of work, accommodation, education, the provision of goods, facilities and services, the disposal of land, the activities of clubs and the administration of Commonwealth laws and programs; and

(ba) to eliminate, so far as possible, discrimination involving dismissal of employees on the ground of family responsibilities; and

(c) to eliminate, so far as is possible, discrimination involving sexual harassment in the workplace, in educational institutions and in other areas of public activity; and

(d) to promote recognition and acceptance within the community of the principle of the equality of men and women.
See: Sex Discrimination Act, sec. 3.

  • Costa Rica’s 1995 Act No. 7476 on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and in Education also specifically references CEDAW in article 1 stating that the Act:

is based on the constitutional principles of respect for freedom and human life, the right to work, and the principle of equality before the law, which oblige the State to condemn gender-based discrimination and to establish policies to eliminate discrimination against women, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women.
(See: Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Combined initial, second and third periodic reports of States parties – Costa Rica, CEDAW/C/CRI/1-3, para. 96.)

The Caribbean Coalition Against Sexual Harassment model law against sexual harassment in the workplace highlights prevention in its preamble:

This Bill would

(a)  declare the existence of a right to freedom from sexual harassment in the work environment

(b)  facilitate the taking of preventative measures against sexual harassment in the workplace through the establishment of the Protection Against Sexual Harassment Council, which Council not only plays a key role in the treatment of complaints of sexual harassment, but also participates in policy making and is responsible for public awareness of the harm of sexual harassment;

(c)  provide remedies for victims, and sanctions for perpetrators and facilitators, of sexual harassment in the work environment;

(d)  establish a procedure for the efficient treatment of complaints of sexual harassment;

(e)  enable sexual harassment claims to be dealt with by a specialised tribunal established by law for the hearing and determination of employment rights even if such tribunal is established after the commencement of this Act, but to provide access to the High Court in the meantime.

  • Iceland’s equality act specifies the broad purpose of the legislation as increasing equality through action-oriented goals:

The aim of this Act is to establish and maintain equal status and equal opportunities for women and men, and thus promote gender equality in all spheres of the society. All individuals shall have equal opportunities to benefit from their own enterprise and to develop their skills irrespective of gender. This aim shall be reached by:

a. gender mainstreaming in all spheres of the society,

b. working on the equal influence of women and men in decision-making and policy-making in the society,

c. enabling both women and men to reconcile their occupational and family obligations,

d. improving especially the status of women and increasing their opportunities in the society,

e. increasing education in matters of equality,

f. analysing statistics according to sex,

g. increasing research in gender studies.

  • The statement of purpose in The Philippines legislation highlights sexual harassment as an issue of human rights and individual dignity:

The State shall value the dignity of every individual, enhance the development of its human resources, guarantee full respect for human rights, and uphold the dignity of workers, employees, applicants for employment, students or those undergoing training, instruction or education. Towards this end, all forms of sexual harassment in the employment, education or training environment are hereby declared unlawful.
See: Republic Act No. 7877, sec. 2.