The Ugly Face of Sexual Harassment in the Work Place
“…there is widespread sexual harassment at the workplaces in Uganda which goes unnoticed, and much of it is swept under the carpet because of fear of losing jobs and the fear of being victimized…” These were statements made by Rt. Hon. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, while addressing the Ugandan Women’s Movement who were presenting a petition before parliament on sexual harassment at workspaces. The petition followed Senior State Attorney, Samantha Mwesigye’s heart-breaking disclosure of her sexual harassment ordeal spanning to 14 years, allegedly at the hands of her supervisor, Christopher Gashirabake.
According to a research by Frank Kiwalabye on the Effects of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace ( a Ugandan Case Study) , out of the 1,437 respondents, two-thirds of the women were below the age of 35 years and about half of the women were low ranking employees. Overall, about three in five women (58%) had experienced some form of sexual harassment by their employers. Women who accepted to have sexual encounters with their bosses constituted 26% and these were less likely to be fired or demoted even if they were underperforming. 13% of the respondents were aware of the policies in their workplaces that protect individuals from sexual harassment. Unmarried and new recruits in organizations were 36% more likely to be the target of harassers.
Though there are laws in place to address the issues of sexual harassment like the employment Act, they fall short in effectively protecting female employees. The Employment Act. 2006 as an example, puts obligation only on employers with more than 25 employees to put in place measure to prevent or investigate sexual harassment in their workplaces. Even then, most Government departments and even private companies in Uganda do not either have the scope and specific policies in place to address sexual harassment in their work environment,
There is therefore need to mandate companies, government agencies , department and authorities in Uganda to have specific policies in place to address sexual harassment in their work environment, revise the laws on sexual harassment in the workplaces like the Employment Act which limits the number of employees required before an employer can put in place measures to prevent or investigate sexual harassment in their workplaces, clearly describe the procedure through which an employee can file a complaint on sexual harassment, emphasize full confidentiality to prevent an address retaliation that could arise from reporting cases of sexual harassment and for political will to address sexual harassment.