Google ‘Sexual Harassment in the Workplace’ and you will discover that 90 percent of the image results you see depicts a woman being harassed by a man.
Women are 9 times more vulnerable to sexual harassment at work than men. This may be true, but have you ever stopped to think how often men are subjected to such things?
Sexual harassment is an unwanted sexual advance or request for sexual favor usually done physically or verbally. It can be from boss to subordinate, supervisor to subordinate or even co-worker to co-worker. Sexual harassment is a silent epidemic that has eaten deep into the Nigerian workplace. Actually, it has become so common that people are beginning to see it as a norm. Statements like these have become the order of the day – “As long as there is a boss and a subordinate somewhere, irrespective of gender, there will always be sexual harassment”. “It is normal”. “Don’t make a big deal out of it”. To make it worse, the economic situation of the country makes many succumb to harassment, even when they find it disturbing. They refuse to speak up for fear of losing their jobs.
Undoubtedly, men are responsible for a good number of sexual harassment in the workplace. But men are also targets and victims of this same menace, and we often forget that. Maybe it seems like it doesn’t exist because most men actually deal with the harassment head on and then shrug it off. Let me give you a typical scenario.
Jane, a female staff of a small food processing company, harassed a new intern assigned to work with her department. She constantly made snide comments and asked him offensive questions like “How large is your pen***”.
At some point, she started taking it as far as groping him whenever they were alone in the office. This intern tried many times to tell her off nicely but she wouldn’t oblige. He dealt with it silently and never reported her to the authorities because he had seen her couple of times going in and out of the CEO’s office at odd times including after work hours. He thinks she is actually sleeping with the boss and if he reports this, he would be out the door before you say jack!
This is just one of many scenarios, cases like this go on in our workplaces on a daily basis. Harassment is the same, be it to a male or female and should be treated the same. The disturbing experience of harassment leaves the victim often frustrated, depressed and angry. As it is considered normal office culture, many people who go through this don’t feel confident that the problem is big enough for them to speak up.
What can we do to eradicate this bug eating itself through our workplaces?
Nigeria does not have very stringent rules with regards sexual harassment. Some people think reporting harassment cases is completely useless. Because even those you are reporting to are somewhat guilty of the same offence and you might end up with nothing or even lose the job.
So what can we do to stop this?
What do you suggest? Leave your comments below.