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Institute policies to address sexual harassment - Corporate organisations urged

BY: Nii Martey Botchway
Mrs Ruth Ferkah Kyere explaining a point to journalists during the programme. Picture: NII MARTEY M. BOTCHWAY
Mrs Ruth Ferkah Kyere explaining a point to journalists during the programme. Picture: NII MARTEY M. BOTCHWAY

The Head of Gender and International Desk at the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR), Mrs Ruth Ferkah Kyere, has stressed the need for corporate organisations to institute workplace policies to deal with issues of sexual harassment.

She said it was important that corporate organisations outlined clearly structures that would facilitate addressing such an issue.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion organised by Gender Centre for Empowering Development (Gene), in Accra yesterday, Mrs Ferkah Kyere said there was the need for corporate organisations to have policies that spelt out appropriate sanctions and punishments for perpetrators of sexual harassment.

The event brought together representatives from civil society organisations, corporate institutions and policy makers to assess the state of sexual harassment in the corporate world and discuss strategies to address it.

Mrs Ferkah Kyere, who is also a Deputy Director of Human Recource at the ministry, said although both men and women fell victim to sexual harassment, most of the victims were women and girls.

Needed attention

She said the issue bordering on sexual harassment had not been given the needed attention.

“It has been considered a norm, and this constitutes a danger at the workplace," she said.

Although the Labour Act (651), 2003, explained 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 was a man or woman”, Mrs Ferkah Kyere said most people did not even know that the laws did not condone it.

She said sexual harassment did not only create a hostile, intimidating and offensive environment at the workplace, but also affected productivity.

She also mentioned that sexual harassment undermined the dignity of the victims and violated their human rights.

Policy Review

Mrs Ferkah Kyere mentioned that the ministry was in the process of reviewing the law to include some emerging challenges with sexual harassment.

She said the current Labour Act did not provide in-depth solutions to deal with sexual harassment challenges.

She indicated that, for instance, "the Act states that, an employee could leave or terminate his or her appointment when they have repeatedly reported sexual harassment cases and the employer fails to address the issue."

This she said was vague, as it did not state what steps or actions would be taken afterwards.

The review, she said, would provide a broader and definite approach in dealing with sexual harassment when completed.

The Project Director at GenCED, Ms Elorm Doe-Atakli, said sexual harassment had emotional, physical and psychological effects on victims and also caused intangible damage to both the victim and the organisation's reputation and credibility.

She said support systems were needed to encourage more women to report cases of sexual harassment.

"Most people did not report cases of sexual harassment while the few that reported them also did not follow up to ensure that justice was done, mostly because the issue was dealt with lightly and in most cases swept under the carpet," she added.

She said there was no strong punitive measure in place that would deter people from engaging in the act and said if corporate organisations put in place strong punitive measures, the issue of sexual harassment would soon be a thing of the past.