You’ve probably heard about the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment case making the news.
If you haven’t, I’ll summarize it.
In a nutshell, British filmmaker Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment, assault and rape by dozens of women including actress Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie, and Gwyneth Paltrow (full list here).
Reading the accusations, I thought of how Nigerian women are constantly sexually harassed at work.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines sexual harassment as a sex-based behaviour that is unwelcome and offensive to its recipient.
Sexual harassment may take two forms:
1) Quid Pro Quo, when a job benefit – such as a pay rise, a promotion, or even continued
employment – is made conditional on the victim acceding to demands to engage in some
form of sexual behaviour; or;
2) hostile working environment in which the conduct creates conditions that are intimidating or humiliating for the victim.
Consequently, sexual harassment can include:
- Sexual comments or jokes in person or via email
- Inappropriate touching such as pinching patting or hugging
- Staring in a sexually suggestive manner or wolf whistling
- Displaying images of a sexual nature
- Being treated less favourably as a result of rejecting any such conduct
While there are a number of arguments as to why men commit acts of sexual harassment, it all boils down to a manifestation of power relations.
Therefore, women are likely to be victims because they are vulnerable, in insecure positions, lack self-confidence and have been socialized to suffer in silence.
If you are being or have been sexually harassed at work, you don’t have to be quiet about it for fear of losing your job. Here’s what you should do.
- Confront the person: Sometimes the offending party may be unaware of their actions. They might see flirting or banter of a sexual nature as harmless. So you’ve got to firmly and directly inform the person you find their words or actions offensive and you would like them to stop.
- Document it: In sexual harassment cases its often one person’s word against another. That’s why you need to gather evidence to build your case. Note at least the date and time the harassment took place. Record what happened, your actions and the harasser’s response. If you’ve got pictures or emails don’t delete them. Copy them to a safe place.
- Report the harassment at work: Your employer has a duty to keep your workplace free from sexual harassment. Therefore, report your concerns to the correct person following your company’s sexual harassment policy if there is one. Remember to put your report in writing and keep a copy.
- Get legal assistance: Sexual harassment is a crime in Nigeria. So, if you aren’t satisfied with the way your company’s handling your complaint, get yourself a good lawyer with a history of handling sexual harassment cases. However, before speaking to a lawyer gather your evidence.
- Quit: This might sound extreme but it’s not. If you don’t feel safe or the harasser becomes physically threating and your employer won’t protect you, it’s time to quit. You don’t have to work in a hostile job environment. There are better workplaces that are worthy of you.
Sexual harassment isn’t about sex it’s about power. If you don’t speak up about a harasser, his behaviour will get worse and there’ll be more victims.