Women Speak Out On Sexual Harassment At the Workplace

INCREASED advocacy fighting against the abuse of authority for purposes of sexual exploitation or ‘sextortion’ is helping women open up.

The International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) President, retired judge of the Court of Appeal, Eusebia Munuo told journalists during a workshop for judicial officers, law enforcers and the civil society that signs are encouraging.

“The problem of ‘sextortion’ is very serious and the increase is largely due to decaying morals at the workplace both public and private and at family level,” she explained.

‘Sextortion’ is a new terminology coined by IAWJ and is a form of sexual exploitation that employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favours from the victim.

It refers to the broader category of sexual exploitation in which abuse of power is the means of coercion, as well as to the category of sexual exploitation in which threatened release of sexual images or information is the means of coercion.

Justice Munuo said that principally women at the workplace continue to be harassed, discriminated and violated because many are not in leadership positions and for this reason, those who are take advantage using sex as a corruption tool.

She said that currently there are over 60 cases in the courts of law, a figure that is showing more women are coming out of the closet.

“This figure some years ago was unheard of as those who are violated live in fear. Though the fear still exists, increased advocacy has helped more people know their rights and are starting to act,” she said.

Justice Munuo said that some of the worst places that ‘sextortion’ exists in schools particularly primary and secondary, health centres and public service offices. She said that out of the 60 cases, some cases have received judgment and reached the Court of Appeal and that up to 130 culprits including teachers and doctors are incarcerated.

“The signs are good. This is especially evident when we see that the judgment passed by male judges was the same as those of the women judges in such cases,” she said.

Echoing the views of Justice Munuo, the UN Women Programme Specialist, Ms Salome Anyoti said that it was unfortunate that the number of cases didn’t reflect the true magnitude of the problem. Ms Anyoti said that there was need to change the mindset of society and have a structure in place where violated people can air their views without prosecution.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the First Lady, Mama Salma Kikwete said that the fact that ‘sextortion’ is done is in secrecy it requires a collective effort to deal with the menace.

Mama Kikwete said that sex corruption had robbed and caused physical and psychological pain to thousands of people especially women in the country.

“It takes one to be very bold to say no to his or her boss due to obvious consequences like denial of promotions, salary hikes and constant transfers and even cruelty. “Sextortion is like a disease that kills people and needs to be urgently stopped.

I am aware that there are different institutions and organisations in this room supporting human rights, I humbly ask you to speed up the work,” she said.

Mama Kikwete said that she is very keen on getting recommendations and way forward from the workshop pledging that her organisation, WAMA is ready to cooperate with the Tanzania Association of Women Judges (TAWJ) in addressing this problem.

The Justice of the Court of Appeal and TAWJ Chairperson, Engela Kileo said that after 10 years of existence training provided by the Association over the years has started to bear fruit as seen from the judgments ruled.

“Though we still have more mountains to climb, the training and pamphlets that have been distributed have helped create awareness.

Seeing women drawing wills to avoid future hurdles and people who once thought it was normal to be approached by their bosses are now coming out in the open and speaking out,” she said. Early next year Tanzania will host an international meeting for the IAWJ and WAMA has offered to assist.

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