Harassment takes many forms; it can be sexual, physical or verbal. “Women are more likely to experience harassment than men. They are usually harassed by people around them such as husbands, boyfriends, employers, physicians, police and sometimes even fellow women,” says Shakira Ampaire, a lawyer with Bucksworth Legal.
According to Ampaire, often, women cannot tell when they are being harassed especially if it is indirect and subtle. She clarifies that if someone is making disparaging, cruel or sexual comments about you, then you are being harassed. If they are also making sexual demands, however covertly, it is harassment.
What is harassment?
Legally, harassment is defined as use of threatening, abusive or insulting words within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be harassed thereby. “Sexual harassment is the more actionable one under the Ugandan law. According to the Employment Act 2006 of Uganda, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment.
“Women are more vulnerable to such behaviour, they barely notice it or they ignore it or choose to keep quiet; which is wrong,” Ampaire says.
“The best way to handle harassment of any form is to face it head on and make it known to the person doing it (you can calmly tell the person) that such behaviour is not welcome to you; lf it persists, you can report this behaviour to an authoritative figure such as a Human Resource Manager at work, if it is a husband to a family member, a boyfriend to a friend or relative and if it is religious, racial or gender-based harassment, you can approach any Human Rights watch for assistance,” she adds.
Naome Karakire Rwabutiti, a businesswoman and mother of two teenage girls, still shudders at the terror some schoolgirls endure at the hands of their headteachers.
“For me, it goes back to the way we are parenting and modelling life for our children. If your daughter grows up watching you bending over backwards to please your boss, she will not recognise predatory intentions in a headteacher who offers freebies. She will even be anxious to do much more to please them,” Rwabutiti observes.
Marianne Nalunga, a musician and TV personality reveals that seven years ago, she was harassed by male managers at her workplace. “I was more angry than shocked. I expressed that anger and I lost the job. Few women can boldly speak out when they are facing harassment. Others choose to keep it a secret or just confide in a friend,” says Nalunga.
“It is this unrealistic fear of being stigmatised coupled with ignorance that perpetuates the culture of abuse. It is important to know that you deserve to be where you are and you do not need to do anything you do not want to, in order to keep that job or business deal,” she adds.