KAMPALA – 25th November annually marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism to eliminate the violence against women and girls. The 16 Days campaign is a global initiative that seek to raise awareness at the local, national and international levels regarding violence against women, strengthen local work, link global activism, provide a forum for dialogue and strategy sharing. It takes place every year and begins 25th November, the International Day of the elimination of violence against women and furnishes on Human Rights Day, the 10th of December.
Sexual harassment can be broadly defined as any unwanted sexual attention or behavior that negatively affects a person’s work or learning environment or creates hostile public spaces. Unless we combat sexual harassment we cannot fight violence against women at work and public spaces. The global theme of this years’ 16 Days of Activism is “Orange the World; End Violence against women Now”.
Sexual harassment can take a variety of forms. This includes both physical violence and subtle forms of violence such as coercion – forcing somebody to do something they do not want to. It can take the form of long term “repeated sexual “jokes” or “vibes”, constant unwanted or unsolicited for invitations to go for a date, or unwelcome flirting of a sexual nature. And it can be a “one-off” incident – touching, patting, poking or fondling somebody inappropriately – or even sexual abuse or rape.
Sexual harassment is violence against women and girls in all its forms and manifestations. Sexual harassment undermines women rights and freedoms across the world. It undermines the human rights to privacy, dignity and respect of women and girls in all spaces (private or public). Sexual harassment is inextricably linked to power and often takes place in societies that treat women as sex objects and second-class citizens. A common example is where a woman or lady is asked for sexual favors in exchange for a job opportunity or promotion or salary increase or wage increase.
Beyond workspaces is another common caliber of street sexual harassment where men carelessly make unwanted “cat-calls”, body touch, body shame and whistle any woman or lady passing by. This form of sexual harassment is outright violence against women and girls. This is illegal, absurd and degrading, detering women’s rights to movement and association freely without social inconvenience.
Sexual harassment is violence and has negative effects and wrongly impacts women and girls. There is a need to completely banish sexual harassment of all forms and in all spaces in order to eliminate violence against women now.
Sexual harassment socially, physically, mentally and psychologically affects women and girls. It creates toxic work environment. It derails women and it curtails gender equality at all levels. The perpetrators of sexual harassment are the harasser who can be employer’s bosses, work colleagues, clients, customers, strangers, a relative, a so-called “friend”, a group or gang of people or a person interviewing a woman for a job. There is no “blueprint” for who a harasser is, there are many different perpetrators.
Violence against women at works deters peace harmony at work but most importantly affects performance and productivity. This leads to slow business growth and hampers development. When women are violated physically, mentally and socially a nation is affected. Women are major key players in the country’s economic growth increase and fostering sustainable development.
In order to prevent sexual harassment, do the following:
Avoid making sexual comments about a woman’s body or looks.
Respect a woman’s “No” – it means a “No” regardless of its form and manifestation. Shun repeated requests for a date nor send messages or phone calls. If a woman does not respond to the first one-stop.
Never touch, poke, a woman’s dignity and respect them.
Do not use your position of power to get a woman to date you. This is an abuse of authority.
Do not leer, whistle or ‘cat-call ever.
Do not use a language or comments that demean women and girls.
Speak up for any woman you see harassed together we fight violence.
A focus on inclusion is an effective means for preventing workplace misconduct and sexual harassment. Employees ought to adopt strategies and policies that prevent unnecessary yet inappropriate behavior. The call to end violence against women and girls is a call to end all forms and manifestations of sexual harassment in both private and public spaces.
Institutions and organizations around the world should aim to prevent and eliminate violence against women through developing policies and anti-sexual harassment policies/strategies, there is need for a cultural change in workspaces to a culture of dignity, respect and honor of all employees regardless of gender. Combat gender inequality of all forms. Individual and collective efforts are needed to help stop this misconduct and aim to advance the human rights of women.
A world without violence is possible and this moment demands unparallel, courage and joint action to make this vision a reality. Increase awareness on the negative effects of sexual harassment and promote and protect women rights and freedoms which are universal.
In order to eliminate violence against women increase all efforts to amplify the voices of women workers in the formal and informal economy. Critical on agenda should be the end of all forms of Gender-Based Violence in private and public spaces. Let us focus on fighting domestic violence in the world of work.
Ms. Joyce Nalunga Birimumaaso is a senior advocate and member, leadership code tribunal