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CSO’s want gov’t action against sexual harassment

By Paul Kiwuuwa

Added 25th November 2019 09:58 AM

The organisation says the sexual harassment policies at workplaces have many gaps

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Carol Shemeri (centre), the national advocacy officer at Centre for Domestic Violence Prevention addressing journalists about this year’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence at Parliament recently. (Photo by Timothy Murungi)

The organisation says the sexual harassment policies at workplaces have many gaps

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) under their Umbrella domestic violence coalition with Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) have demanded that employers in the formal and informal sector take action against sexual harassment at workplaces.

 The organisation says the sexual harassment policies at workplaces have many gaps. Employees do not have the guarantee that they will keep their jobs when they report such cases and some companies are not interested in the welfare of their employees. They only work to protect the image and name of their organizations.

 Last May the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, called on female employees to report cases of sexual harassment.

Kadaga noted that Section 7 of the Employment Act provides for reporting and handling of cases of sexual harassment at the workplace.

“If there are people who are being harassed, let them write to me, then we shall handle,” said Kadaga.

Addressing a joint press conference on Tuesday, at Parliament to launch the campaign for 16 days of activism, the activists said eliminating sexual harassment is not a favor but a requirement. This year’s theme is: “Ending Gender-based Violence in the world of work.”

Every November 25th to December 10th, activists’ communities and organizations worldwide unite by the 16 days of activism campaign, to calling for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence against women and girls.

In a statement read by the executive director Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP)Tina Musuya said: “Worldwide, 1 in 3 women will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime.  In Uganda, these statistics are even worse:  56% of Ugandan women experience physical violence, 27% experience sexual violence – and of those, 55% are under the age of 19.  In addition, 51% of women have been abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

She said Gender-based violence, knows no boundaries.  It can affect all people, regardless of social, economic, or political status. Women also face Psychological abuse, forced and early marriage, female genital mutilation, and the denial of resources and services are all forms of GBV.

 Musuya said lack of sexual harassment policies at work places exposes many workers to abuse because majority work in small institutions.

“The sexual harassment policies at work places have many gaps. Employees do not have the guarantee that they will keep their jobs when they report such cases and some companies are not interested in the welfare of their employees. They only work to protect the image and name of their organizations,” Musuya noted. We are here to amplify the voice of women. We call upon communities, and government to take action against sexual harassment at the workplace, including informal, formal, big small public or private,” said Musuya.

she added eliminating Sexual harassment means upholding women’s safety, respect and dignity at workplace

Musuya referred to ILO convention instrument the violence and harassment convention, 2019 at the 108 ILO meeting in Geneva which agreed:

 that Members countries  have an important responsibility to promote a general environment of zero tolerance to violence and harassment in order to facilitate the prevention of such behaviors and practices, and that all actors in the world of work must refrain from, prevent and address violence and harassment.

Speaking on behalf of UWOPA, the  Kasese Woman MP Winnie Kiiza said many women would have performed better at their workplaces if they were not harassed by their bosses.

Kiiza said: “A child having a baby as a teenager is more likely to face critical social issues like poverty, poor education, risky behaviors that lead to poor health issues, and child welfare.

Kiiza said the financial cost of teens having babies is financially devastating, educational attainment is difficult for the teen mother and this leads to decreased economic opportunities and earnings throughout their lifetime.

Sam Lyomoki Workers MP also a member of UWOPA said: “There are many cases of domestic violence against women  at the workplace in Uganda, however, because they fear to be fired from their jobs they suffer without reporting such abuses to the authorities.”

Carol Shemer, Advocacy officer, (CEDOVIP) said violence against women and girls remain highly persistent in Uganda, despite a progressive legal and policy regime. She said harmful practices such as child marriages, commercial sex exploitation of girls and Female Genital Mutilation continue to prevail.

Citing the 2018 police crime report she said: “15,366 defilement cases were reported in 2018, compared to 14, 985 cases in 2017, 1,580 cases of rape were reported in 2018, compared to 1,335, cases compared to 2017.

A total of 286 cases of trafficking in persons were reported, the majority of the victims were women. Domestic violence was also among the leading crimes of 2018, with 13, cases reported.

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