- Seth Osei-Kodua
Sexual Harassment at the Workplace
Sexual harassment is generally described as unwelcome/unwanted sexually determined behaviour that affects the dignity of women and men at work. It could be indirect or direct action, that results in physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, sexually-oriented remarks, any other unwelcome physical, the verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature (Labour, act 651).
The lack of career opportunities in the labour market has also been cited as a factor leading to the increased incidents of sexual harassment in Ghana. According to a study conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), ”Sexual harassment is inextricably linked with power and often takes place in societies which treat women as sex objects and second-class citizens.” An example of this is when a man or woman is being asked for sexual favours in return for being given a job, or a promotion, or a raise. A perfect Ghanaian example was when the nurse at the Koforidua St Joseph hospital was being asked for sexual favours by the hospital administrator in exchange for a promotion. One of the major challenges of sexual harassment, in our part of the world, is gathering evidence to make a case against the harasser.
In a research report on sexual harassment at work and in the academic environment in Ghana by the African Women Lawyers Association, out of the total sample population of 789 women who responded, 63 percent (63%) said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work and in educational institutions. The research findings depict that there are high cases of sexual harassment incidents in Ghana.
In other to avoid incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace, employers must first establish a company culture that does not promote or encourage the act. Employers should evaluate their employee manual and policy to make certain that sexual harassment is clearly defined and understood by both male and female employees. Employers should also state what is appropriate and inappropriate on the job behaviour. I suggest there should be a proper counselling and ethics department at every institution and corporate organisations to encourage sexual harassment victims to attend to.
Another method that can be used to curb this issue is to strengthen the communication channels at the workplace. Training and education seminars must be organised to empower employees to speak up against sexual harassment acts at the workplace.
Since sexual harassment is often linked to power related issues and relatively common in societies where women are considered second-class citizens, there should be a deliberate attempt by the government and other stakeholders to promote women empowerment in Ghana. Policymakers should also intensify the already existing gender empowerment related programs for example ‘The HEforSHE’ campaign launched by the Ministry of Gender early this year is a solidarity campaign for the advancement of women initiative to speak against inequality and other forms of harassment (sexual) levelled against them.
The family and the school as a social institution also has a role to play, the family and the educational institution have to train and encourage the younger one to always speak up to issues they are not comfortable with. Sexual harassment in a way is a confident related issue, so it is the duty of the family to boost the confidence level of the young by encouraging them to speak up.
The government and the media must strongly hold a media campaign against it to sensitise the general public about the effect of sexual harassment on the growth of business and the development of the country at large, its campaign must be given similar attention as the ‘say no to galamsey’ and the ‘send your girl child to school’ campaigns.
In a nutshell, sexual harassment has the tendency to affect the productivity of both employee and the employer so you have to ‘kill it before it destroys your business’ SAY NO TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT!