Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) has called on governments in the region to make it mandatory for all employers to have a workplace policy against sexual harassment in work institutions.
PSAf executive director Lillian Kiefer observed in a statement yesterday that sexual harassment was one of the biggest hindrances to women’s advancement into positions of power and influence in Southern Africa.
And according to a review of political party systems and structures conducted by PSAf officials, Kiefer noted that women who aspired for positions of influence were often subjected to unwanted sexual advances and also expected to perform sexual favours to men in influential positions in order to be considered.
“Sexual harassment has become so entrenched to the extent of almost being normalised in some sections of our society. As a result, women are afraid to speak out because by so doing, they may appear to be challenging some aspects of the social set-up. In some cases where the women take a bold step to speak out, society tends to shame the victims instead of supporting them to fight the harassment. We therefore encourage women who have been sexually harassed, or have information about a specific sexual harassment case, to share this information with trusted stakeholders so that the perpetrators may be brought to book,” Kiefer stated.
Kiefer stated that sexual harassment would continue being practiced in schools, homes and communities if victims continued being silent and defending perpetrators.
“Despite sexual harassment of women being so rampant at home, in the workplaces and at learning institutions, very few women have come out to report. In some cases, reports are made but the cases are usually swept under the carpet without any action being taken against the perpetrators. PSAf is of the view that as long as women, who are the majority of victims of sexual harassment remain silent on the issue, the vice will continue unabated,” she stated.
And Kiefer feared that the failure to address sexual harassment would reverse a lot of the gains made in increasing the participation of women in positions of influence.
“As an organisation that works to amplify voices of the poor and marginalised, we endorse the global ‘#MeToo’ campaign against sexual harassment. Addressing sexual harassment is very high on PSAf’s agenda, and we place the same demand on all the stakeholders that we work with. We are of the view that failure to address sexual harassment will reverse a lot of the gains made in increasing the participation of women in positions of influence.”
Meanwhile, Kiefer called on all governments in Southern Africa to make it mandatory for all employers to have a workplace policy on sexual harassment in order to combat the vice.
“To address this vice, we encourage governments in Southern Africa to make it mandatory for all employers to have a workplace policy on sexual harassment. We also encourage the media and civil society to facilitate engagement on sexual harassment in a manner that does blame or shame the victims. We also endorse as suggestion by one participant in a debate on the PSAf Facebook page that women must always be armed with voice recorders or other gadgets that will enable them to capture evidence of sexual harassment,” stated Keifer.