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Makerere lecturers say they are sexually harassed

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st March 2008 03:00 AM

While campus girls always accused lecturers of demanding sex for marks, a Saturday Vision survey reveals that a number of lecturers are sexually harassed by female students.

While campus girls always accused lecturers of demanding sex for marks, a Saturday Vision survey reveals that a number of lecturers are sexually harassed by female students.

By Carol Natukunda

While campus girls always accused lecturers of demanding sex for marks, a Saturday Vision survey reveals that a number of lecturers are sexually harassed by female students.

Out of 50 lecturers interviewed in 12 faculties and institutes of Makerere University, 30% said they had been approached by girls who promised sex for marks.

Fifty two per cent had ever received sexually explicit text messages, emails or notes from the girls.

An overwhelming 78% of lecturers complained that the girls were deliberately dressing indecently or exposing their body parts, while 40% said girls made unnecessary visits to their offices.

Lecturers also reported that female students winked at them (34%), deliberately brushed their bodies against them (22%), tickled their palms (16%) and stroked their breasts while speaking to them.

These actions are against the Makerere University policy and regulations on sexual harassment, issued by the University Senate on July 26, 2006. The policy cites some examples of sexual harassment as unwanted physical contacts and exposure of intimate body parts, persistent explicit mails and messages, unwanted demands for sex in exchange for employment or academic favours and sexual assault among others.

Twelve per cent of lecturers said they were embarrassed or offended by these actions of female students, 10% felt normal, while 6% took up the offer, and 2% felt honoured or excited.

One lecturer narrates of how he had to deal with a “pestering” girl who had a retake. “She never used to follow me up until she had a paper to re-do. She would call me up to say she wanted a discussion with me on how she could improve. She would come dressed up in tight mini skirts,” the lecturer recalls. “It was too often and I got fed up. At times she would even come to my office at about 10:00pm in the night, after I had finished teaching the evening students and was planning to go away. Of course if I were the kind who gets tempted easily, I would have slept with her or done the unbelievable, because we were always two people at those odd hours!”

There is also the story of a political science lecturer, who got the shock of his life just when he thought he was being kind.

“The girl was sitting in front and the books fell down. I bent to pick them and then she spread her legs!” the lecturer recounts, “then, it so happened she missed a coursework and started following me up to give her one for compensation. She would say “I will do anything you want me to…” Of course this meant sex bribery. Because this is not a girl who is working, so I could say, she has the money. She doesn’t!”

The survey showed that the campus girls are more interested in younger lecturers. For instance, the reported acts of sexual harassment happened to 42% of lecturers aged 34 and 44, compared with 26.3% among lecturers aged over 45 years.

The findings also show that 18% lecturers encountered the sexual harassment most when fresher reported to university, while 6% said it was during the semester while others agreed that the mid-semester. About 14% lecturers said they have encountered the phenomenon three times a semester, while 12% experienced it at least once.

This problem is not limited to Makerere University. Victor Locoro, the chairperson of the Kyambogo University Academic Staff Association agrees that female students sexually harass male lecturers, although they have not received any formal complaint.

“Some girls come almost naked and sit badly in front of the lecturer, so the lecturer gets destabilised,” Locoro explainss.

He feels the problem has been compounded by the young direct entrants, who are fresh from high school. “The values that our university used to have have been lost. Earlier, there were mature people, but now there are more young people. They come knowing that they can earn free marks for sex,” Locoro says.

One lecturer in his early 30s told of how, he would occasionally go out for fun along with his sister and her friends. Months later, one of the girls in the clique was already “tying” herself on him. And it became harder by the day, since she was his student.

“She would call or send me text messages. Sometimes, she would come to my residence. And you can’t chase her because she might scream and people think you were trying to rape her!” the lecturer recounts. Back in class, the girl expected him to give her good grades because they were friends. “But this was hard. All her classmates knew her as dense. So when I gave the little marks she deserved, she started circulating rumours that she refused my sexual advances, and that was why I was revenging on her. Everyone thought I was harassing the girl…I was furious!”

But the question is just how possible it is that a girl can actually harass a man, who has all the rights to resist temptation? Psychiatrist David Basangwa feels that it all boils down to one’s mindset and moral upbringing. “I don’t think that merely looking at an indecently dressed girl should provoke the man. It’s just a scapegoat to cover up their mindset. How come most of us (doctors) diagnose naked female patients but you still don’t feel provoked?” Basangwa says.

But Kajumba Mayanja, a lecturer and psychologist at Makerere University Institute of Community Psychology says it is naturally hard to ignore the provocations. He adds that sexual harassment may not necessarily mean sexual intercourse.

“She may not tell you that she is interested in you, but the way she stares at you or behaves every time you are around, shows she is. If someone dresses indecently, looks at you with funny gestures, like rolling eyes, she is always standing up or walking out, it makes you feel uncomfortable,” Mayanja says.

“It is like a teacher telling you today that you are smart, and the next day he says you have a nice hairstyle. This makes you uncomfortable,” Mayanja adds.

He says it is even worse if there are two girls doing it at the same time to the same lecturer. “You could look in one direction and the girl is skimpily dressed, when you look in another it is the same thing! It’s equally uncomfortable,” he says.

Mayanja explains further that the reason the girls may use such indirect ways to entice their lecturers is because society has shaped them that way. “They feel they are of a lower status. They won’t come to you directly, because you have a higher class than them. Some girls even start telling everybody that you are their boyfriend, and by the time you come to class, everybody is biased. They know you are minding about her alone,” he adds.

But the students have reacted angrily to the issue and deny any of such incidences in their universities.

“Most of our girls love trousers, and those who wear skirts and dresses, choose decent and long ones. Meeting lecturers is normally during the working hours,” says Susan Abbo, the outgoing guild president of Makerere University.

William Kayongo, the Kyambogo University guild president, concurs: “What I have heard is that the lecturers harass students, and not the other way round.”

Ahmed Kiggundu, the spokesperson of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association, prefers not to take a side on the issue.

“As individuals, they (lecturers) have aired their views. One time it came up briefly in our General Assembly and we agreed we should come up with a definition of what really sexual harassment is.” Kiggundu said the university’s policy on sexual harassment is not yet conclusive.

“We are trying to formulate more guidelines on what sexual harassment is. We want to know who seduces who, who harasses who and by what means.”

Dangers
It will always lead to the sexually transmitted degrees, according to Mayanja. “With time, it is easy for the lecturer to get compromised. Here is the girl you slept with and you are tempted to give her a lot of marks. Sometimes the student may actually have been teasing you, and yet you find yourself emotionally attached to her,” Mayanja says adding: “besides, you are teaching and she is completely absent minded, wondering if you have already noticed her; so her grades go down.”

Locoro laments that most male lecturers feel ashamed to talk about it, as culturally, women are not seen as so imposing. “It is even hard to prove, when you don’t have evidence. Universities should start sensitisation programmes among their students to ensure better dress codes.”

What can one do?
Winnie Wesonga, a counsellor with Family Life Network, gives the following tips to control themselves:

- Be a total man: make it known to the harasser that her moves are unwelcome.

- If the behaviour persists, inform them you are going to report to the authorities.

- Counsel her and put sense into her like a parent. Tell her she came to study. Sometimes a threat may not scare her.

- Choose your friends carefully. Some men give in because their friends advise them to.

- Deal with the whole class. Warn them from the start that you do not compromise on nudeness, and unless it is an emergency, they should not move in and out of class. The statement may be general, but the harasser will pick a leaf, as she will fear to do it, because she knows the class will be suspicious of her.

Lecturers’ suggestions
-Expose and punish culprits
-Ban mini-skirts
-Ministry of education should develop a dress code in universities
-Implement a gender insensitive sexual harassment policy
-Instil high school strictness. Be tough in talking, mean business
-Observe strict professional limits between lecturers and students.
-Award marks on merit
-Special training for lecturers on how to cope
-Counselling and guidance sessions for students and lecturers
-Sharing experiences and talking about it with colleagues
-Encourage social activities and clubs to keep students engaged
-Sensitisation seminars
-Prayers

Makerere lecturers say they are sexually harassed

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