The Ugly Face of Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment in the Work Place

By: Timothy Chemonges

“…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.