The Executive Director of the Ark Foundation, Mrs Angela Dwamena-Aboagye, has stressed the need for corporate organisations to adopt workplace policies on sexual harassment to outline structures to address the issue.
She observed that sexual harassment at the workplace mostly affected women, adding that there is the need for corporate organisations to have policies that spell out appropriate sanctions and punishments.
Mrs Dwamena-Aboagye made the call at a dialogue organised by the Ark Foundation on sexual harassment in the workplace, with focus on corporate institutions.
The workshop, under the Women’s Leadership and Policy Dialogue Series, was funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
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The programme, which brought together representatives from civil society organisations, corporate institutions and policy makers, among others, was to assess the state of sexual harassment in the corporate world and discuss strategies to address it.
According to Mrs Dwamena-Aboagye, the issue of sexual harassment has not been given the needed attention, and that “sometimes some people even think it is annoying to talk about it, but it constitutes a danger to the victim.”
Although the Labour Act (651), 2003, explains sexual harassment as “any unwelcome, offensive or sexual advances or request made by an employer or superior officer or co-worker to a worker, whether it is a man or woman,” Mrs Dwamena-Aboagye said most people did not even know that the laws did not condone it.
She said sexual harassment did not only create an intimidating, hostile and offensive environment for the victims, but also undermined the dignity of the victims and violated their human rights and freedom, pointing out that currently, the issue of sexual harassment was going on in churches, workplaces, schools and in the home.
Although both men and women could fall victims to sexual harassment, she explained that due to the societal norms and socially ascribed roles for men and women, most of the victims were women and girls and that sexual harassment, which usually happened due to disparity of power, involved inappropriate affectionate gestures, unwelcome sexual advances, oral reference to sexual conduct, displaying sexually suggestive objects in the form of cartoons, books and others and sexual innuendo, among many others.
In his presentation on the impact of sexual harassments on its victims and organisations, the National Coordinator of Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Mr Adolf Awuku Bekoe, indicated it had physical, emotional and psychological effects on its victims and added that there could also be intangible costs of damage to individual or corporate reputations and credibility.
the Deputy Director of Administrative Justice at the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Mrs Elizabeth Kuffour, said support systems were needed to encourage more women to report cases of sexual harassment.
She added that most people did not report cases of sexual harassment while the few that reported it also did not follow up to ensure that justice was done.