KAMPALA – Public Services International, labor rights activist organisation on Wednesday launched a report about occupation, safety and violence at workplaces in Uganda in which it showed that most females still suffer sexual harassment and violence.
According to the United Nations, sexual harassment is behavior defined as unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature. “For example, a man whistles at a woman when she walks by or a woman looks a man up and down when he walks towards her.”
Speaking at the launch at the Imperial Royale Hotel, Dr Evelyn Akech from Public Services International, an organization that brings together all public sector workers in more than 165 workers noted that their research focused on the incidences of violence and harassment in the world work in the sectors of education, health and electricity.
The study shows that although the country has got very good laws condemning sexual harassment, the vice remains at a high rate due to lack of implementation.
Also, Dr Akech revealed that most employers do not have in place a violence and harassment committee which should be able to address the reporting mechanism and challenges of the same.
“In all three sectors, women suffer more in terms of sexual harassment compared to men. In the education sector, many lecturers still take advantage of the students they supervise in terms of awarding marks for sex.”
Study also shows that many workers still fear reporting cases of sexual harassment due to the stigma associated with it.
Nateza Victoria Kakooza, Gender Activist said that the women and girls in the lower jobs with less power with no say are most prone to being harassed by men.
Unfortunately, she says the victims fear to report because they would lose their jobs but also they think that their fellows will not take in a good will.
“There is a need to work together to end sexual harassment in the workplaces,” she noted, adding that “there is a need to teach people about the policies regarding sexual harassment.”
She also called on the government to increase the budget for the Ministry of Gender to enable the labor office to go down on the ground and monitor what’s happening.
Mr. Sanya Aggrey – General Secretary, Uganda Medical Workers Union underscored, “You find that we still share washrooms both males and females. In duty rooms, we seat both males and females throughout the night during night shifts. We should have cameras in the duty rooms, especially in health sectors but also we should think of transparent duty rooms.”
Ms. Hilda Nakaya – Labor Officer, Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development noted that much as the government has come up with several laws to combat the vice, the only way to end it is by coming together of all the stakeholders.
She also noted that there’s a challenge in handling these cases because they are criminal in nature and there has always been a challenge of evidence.
“There is an issue culture where some believe that you are not supposed to reject a man which makes men not even realize that they are harassing women sexually but are rather asking for love.”
Workers’ MP Charles Bakkabulindi also emphasized the implementation of the existing laws and sensitization of the public.
The report recommended that government should start implementing its laws.
It also tasked all the lawyers and stakeholders to ensure that they put in place an environment that will encourage sexual harassment victims to report.