‘Enforce policies against sexual harassment at workplace’

Discussants at a roundtable on sexual harassment at the workplace have advocated the need for corporate organisations to institute and enforce workplace policies on the menace to promote a safe work environment.

They held that not only will sexual harassment policies in workplaces protect the rights of workers and sustain business growth, but serve as a deterrent to possible offenders.

Lawyer and Convenor of the Affirmative Action Bill Coalition, Mrs Sheila Minka-Premo, General Manager, Human Resource and Administration for Media General, MrsAma Lawson and the Head of Gender Department of the Trades Union Congress, Mrs Alberta LaryeaGyan, were contributing to the topic which formed part of series of public dialogues initiated by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE).

The dialogues which touch on pertinent issues are expected to engender national conversations around the subject, possibly addressing prevailing gaps and help spur national development.

In her submission, Mrs Minka-Premo noted that while men and women were prone to sexual harassment, women were most vulnerable with all two types of harassment; “quid pro-quo” and “hostile work environment”, which was prevalent in the country.

She said, Ghana’s labour laws were rather skewed towards “quid pro-quo, which means- this for that; where sexual favours are offered in exchange for benefits like gaining employment, promotion and salary increase or to avoid demotion, rather than the other where victims suffer intimidating or demeaning environment.”

The gender activist noted that while there was a need to review the law it was important that clear-cut sexual harassment policies which are binding on employees are enacted at all workplaces to protect human rights and promote a safe working environment.

She further called for the re-socialisation of the future generation to value and respect human relations to promote a healthier work environment in the nearest future.

Mrs Lawson, citing a 2017 BBC survey report on workplace sexual harassment said at least 30 percent (3 in 10) of all women globally suffered the threat with 63 percent failing to file a complaint.

According to the survey, three in four sexual harassment claims at the workplace went unreported while 55 percent of victims who spoke up on their ordeal experienced retaliation from perpetrators.

“In 2018, at least 72 percent of victims were sexually harassed by senior managers or colleagues and did not report and 31 percent felt anxious or depressed so, this is not just a workplace event, it borders on victims health, livelihoods, their dependents and can be costly to the company so it is not a matter to be trivalised.”

Mrs Lawson stressed the need for a policy on sexual harassment at the workplace to be accessible to all with clearly defined provisions which among others points out medium of reporting an act, confidentiality, anonymity and protection of victims and sanctions.

The Chairperson of the NCCE, Ms Kathleen Addy, said the Commission would consider teaming up with organisations like the Trades Union Congress to ensure the ratification of the International Labour Organisations (ILO) recommendations on sexual harassment and advocate for implementation at workplaces.

“The idea is to increase awareness on the menace to empower workers to speak up and exhibit full commitment to promoting gender equality at the workplace,” she said.

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