Women Police officers have complained of sexual harassment by their male bosses. Some have been denied promotions or deployment when they refuse to comply with the sexual advances while others have been assigned physically demanding tasks when they are pregnant.
It is commendable that the Inspector General of Police, Maj Gen Kale Kayihura, has given the women officersâ€™ opportunity to speak out. It is also commendable that the women did not shy away from unmasking the huge cancer of sexual harassment that still dogs many workplaces in Uganda.
The challenge, though, is that since the women officers spoke out in public, this could invite even more subtle marginalisation for them. Kayihura will have to put in place urgent measures to protect the already victimised women.
The Constitution provides for gender balance and fair representation of marginalised groups and the right to development and recognition of the role of women in society. Article 33 specifically states that:
- Women shall be accorded full and equal dignity of the person with men
- The State shall provide the facilities and opportunities necessary to enhance the welfare of women to enable them realise their full potential and advancement.
- The State shall protect women and their rights, taking into account their unique status and natural maternal functions in society.
The injustice exposed by the women officers is just a tip of the iceberg. Many people, men and women alike, fear to speak out when they face sexual or racial harassment or any other prejudicial injustice in the workplace.
Employers should understudy national and international practices that address prejudicial injustices in the workplace and institute systems which make the Ugandan workplace secure for all employees.
The Government should urgently activate the Equal Opportunities Commission so that procedures for reporting sexual harassment and other prejudicial injustices are popularised for the public. This body would also monitor workplaces for compliance.