By Aisha Tamba
A recent survey conducted by the Gambia Press Union has revealed that 15 media personnel have experienced sexual harassment at workplaces.
The research administered 109 respondents drawn from 24 media organisations.
Among situations that are usually exploited to sexually harass employees, application for employment is ranked highest by 16.5% of respondents, work trips and role allocation at work are ranked second by 14.7% while the need for promotion is ranked third by 13.8% of the respondents.
Gender-wise, the harassers are most often males. In all 15 respondents that have experienced sexual harassment, 13 respondents (86.7%) experienced it from males while 2 respondents (13.3%) experienced it from females.
Findings show that sexual harassment is prevalent among the study population. 22% of the respondents have heard rumours of sexual harassment in the workplaces, 40% of this have heard it more than twice, 23.9% are aware of someone being sexually harassed and 13.7% have had personal experience of sexual harassment.
The study discovered that there is a high level of knowledge of acts constituting sexual harassment even though attitudes towards reporting incidents (informed by socio-cultural practices) keep driving the practice.
It said out of the more than 10 acts constituting sexual harassment listed in the questionnaire, the 6 most serious ones were recognized by more than 79.8% of the respondents while the least serious act of sexual harassment (unwanted repeated advances through online channels) was recognized by 38.5%.
The study shows that victims of sexual harassment most often fail to lodge a formal complaint. Out of the number that sought any form of support on their experience of sexual harassment, the highest percentage, 36.4%, sought support from family members and only 26.7% lodged a formal complaint. There is also a high degree of tolerance for sexual harassment. This can be a key factor in maintaining and reproducing the problem.
”Media organizations have largely shown low awareness of the need to create policies and structures for the prevention and sanctioning of sexual harassment. 96% of the respondents claim that their organisation has no sexual harassment policy. 23% of those who claim that their organisation has a policy feel the policy has inadequacies.
The identified inadequacies include non-inclusion of unwelcome touching of sexual parts among the acts constituting sexual harassment and failure to indicate means of employees’ access to the sexual harassment policy among others. Moreover, 23.1% of the respondents feel that their organisation’s policy does not adequately spell out sanctions against sexual harassment.
Responses to questions on the consequences of sexual harassment for the harasser (that emanated from the organisation’s intervention) and the consequences for the organization (in terms of changes) show 20% reporting that the harasser was disciplined, 30% reporting that the harasser was warned while 30% claiming that there were no consequences for the harasser.
When victims’ level of satisfaction with their organisation’s handling of their sexual harassment’s complaint was measured, 0% of the complainants were extremely satisfied, only 21.4% were satisfied in any way and 50% were not satisfied.
Media organisations have been unmindful of the necessity to offer their employees training opportunities on sexual harassment. 87.2% of the respondents have never received training or materials that covered how to intervene as a bystander to protect other employees from sexual harassment and discrimination,” the report observed.
“When respondents were asked if there is an internal complaint procedure for sexual harassment cases in their workplaces, only 15% answered ‘Yes’, 57% responded ‘No’ and 28% don’t know. The implication of not knowing the existence of the internal complaint procedure is that such people cannot lodge any formal complaint if they fall victim of sexual harassment because they are not knowledgeable of procedures for seeking redress.
Moreover, respondents’ knowledge of existing legal documents that guarantee their protection against sexual harassment is low. 72.5% of respondents were not aware of any legal document on sexual harassment and as much as 35% of the respondents could not mention any such legal document,” it added.