By Agnes Lamisi Tii
Sexual harassment according to the oxford dictionary is “a behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional social situation”. This definition gives a broader view of the issue. In essence, it simply means sexual harassment is not limited to the educational sphere as it seems.
Most often, we tend to limit the issue of sexual harassment to the educational terrain. But in an actual sense, this act is everywhere, and the biggest culprits being people in higher authority.
Nonetheless, we cannot blame anyone for the great harm the neglect of this act in other spheres is causing. This is because the fear of being stigmatized becomes the barrier stopping victims from opening up about it.
Over the years, sexual harassment in tertiary schools has gained much attention from all persons in Ghana. This could be attributed to the endless efforts by the victims to voice out their plight.
Let us take note, that those who openly make complaints are students who refuse to give in to the advances made by their lecturers. In 2018, three Lecturers from the University for Professional Studies and Administration (UPSA) were dismissed after they were found guilty of soliciting sex from their students. Another incident that left the whole nation in uproar was the sexual relationship between a J.H.S Headmaster and a student.
Then the release of the B.B.C Africa Eye’s sex-for-grades documentary which targeted Tertiary institutions in Ghana and Nigeria. These among other documentaries has framed a notion that sexual harassment is an issue in all levels of education, leading to it being tagged ‘sex for grades’.
Obviously, the issue cannot be limited to education, because it can happen anywhere, including our homes and working environment. Notable forms of this act is ‘sex for employment’, ‘sex for promotion’ and even ‘sex for contract’.
Sexual harassment in our workplaces, has eaten deep into the fabric of our society. To the extent of being denied employment even when one is more than qualified, just to quench their sexual desires. We seem not to see the danger this is posing, because as it stands, working hard for something is now unnecessary, if not useless. This is because no matter the efforts you put into your work, you will not gain recognition out of it, rather you have to offer your body in exchange for something you should work for. The saying therefore that ‘hard work pays’ becomes rather null.
Obviously, tackling this menace over the years has been limited to the educational setting, hence needs a second look, this time as a general canker.
We know for a fact that females are mostly the vulnerable ones, thus, avenues must be made available so that those who encounter such problems can make a complaint. Else the victims might be forced to give in to the pressure from their predators, due to fear of being punished or a worse consequence thereafter.
Moreover, rules against sexual harassment must be strictly reinforced and applied at any point in time when the need be. Usually, people in higher authority go scot-free after engaging in such unscrupulous acts thus giving room for subsequent ones. It is therefore wise enough to make sure they are punished to serve as a deterrent to others.
As all these measures are being instigated, males who take advantage of the higher positions they occupy to engage in this act must make a conscious effort to desist from it. Nevertheless, females who find themselves in any professional social field must endeavor to work hard, so as not to be pushed into soliciting favors from any male in higher authority.
It is, therefore, obvious that sexual harassment is a detriment to socio- economic development, thus, creating a harassment-free environment through the application of the aforementioned measures, will put a halt to this bane to some extent if not entirely.