For years, sexual harassment and sexism have been rampant in our Ghanaian society. The question is what constitutes Sexual Harassment? The United Nations Development Fund for Women defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome or unwanted verbal, non-verbal, physical or visual conduct based on sex or of a sexual nature; the acceptance of or rejection of which affects individual's employment.” Both women and men can be victims of sexual harassment and discrimination. However, in Ghana, many women are mainly victims of hostile work environment harassment, and failure to remedy and prevent harassment, retaliation and wrongful dismissal could make this emotional distress an acceptable norm.
Unsurprisingly, over the past years and recently, incidents such as allegations against Mr. Samuel Dadey the then Ghana's Ambassador to Brazil prior to his recall, Ms. Charlotte Kumi's allegation against her Kpando NADMO boss, Christian Attoh and Madam Adwoa Semanhyia's allegation against Dr. Opuni of Ghana Standards Board have once again shone a spotlight on what seems to be an unchecked, non-investigated, unpunished and creeping culture of sexual harassment, abuse and sexism at workplace. We can't just laugh off these allegations!
Well, without going all out to accuse men of gross misconduct and abuse of position, women too can be perpetrators of sexual harassment. Amazingly, when sexual harassment allegation is made by a woman, we easily discard it as a mere claim to seek public sympathy or dismissed it as a cynical ploy to hurt the reputation of the alleged perpetrator. It should be investigated as it might contain some grains of truth. Sexual harassment is so pervasive that, in Ghana student girls are pressured by some lecturers/teachers for sex as a quid pro quo in our universities/colleges, some medical doctors are constantly harassing young nurses and even patients, some pastors harassing women who go for prayers and deliverance, women traders suffer in the hands of customs/revenue officials. Everyone seems to be at it. It's so disgusting to see some 'potbelly' politicians and government officials old enough to be grandfathers of some of these young women, subject them to horrifying sexual assaults, exploitation and harassment. Sexual harassment is so endemic in our society.
Discrimination and harassment against women are not only appalling but against the law. Our women suffer disparaging and lewd comments, groping, pestering, psychological and emotional abuse and exposure to explicit sexual contents [soft and hardcore porn] at workplace. Many women suffer from lack of promotions, some underpaid, and some lose positions after taking time off to deliver. These are serious problems Ghana's sex discrimination laws and employment laws alone cannot bring a substantial change. We need Government's intervention to create a conducive, welcome and accepted work environment. We also need to change our mindset and sexual attitudes towards women at work. Women have the right to dignity and respect in their workplaces and in their daily lives. It's time for women to stand up against the sexist culture that normalises the sexual objectification of women and the gender discrimination that have gripped our society.