Makerere to strengthen enforcement of sexual harassment policy

Sunday February 18 2018

Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof

Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe. FILE PHOTO 

By Agencies

The Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, says the university will strengthen the enforcement of its policy on sexual harassment.

The University’s policy on sexual harassment was introduced in 2006. It defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours or unwanted physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct of a sexual nature.

The policy prescribes several measures to stop the vice such as compelling the accused to apologise publicly to the aggrieved party, compensation, suspension, dismissal, demotion and transfer.

The policy provides for the establishment of the Makerere University Anti-Sexual Harassment Committee at Senate level and Anti-Sexual Harassment Committee at college and department levels to handle complaints.

Despite the existence of the policy, several cases of sexual harassment around the university go unreported. Prof Nawangwe says the policy hasn't been effective in addressing the complaints of sexual harassment as anticipated, adding that university seeks to completely eradicate sexual harassment.

"We are going to increase sensitisation to both the staff and students because it is two-way. Sometimes it begins with the students when they entice lecturers," Prof Nawangwe said. He says students will be sensitised on where to report and how to report sexual harassment complaints.

Prof Nawangwe says the sensitisation is aimed at restoring student's confidence in the university sexual harassment policy.

"We want to assure them (students) that they will be protected when they report complaints and their cases will be handled quickly," he said.

Prof Nawangwe says they will also reinvigorate the structures established under the policy at the senate, college and school levels.

He says students who fear reporting to the administrators such as heads of departments or college principals can also report their complaints through student leaders.

Court battle

Since its inception, Makerere University Anti-Sexual Harassment Committee has only received one complaint. The complaint was handled but the complainant wasn't satisfied with the outcomes and recommendations.

She has since filed an application in the High Court Civil Division seeking permission to sue the university anonymously for failure to protect her from sexual harassment.

In her application, the girl says Makerere administration failed to protect her from sexual harassment and alleviate its impact during her studentship between 2012 and 2017.

She also says the university failed to investigate, discipline or prosecute the perpetrators of sexual harassment. She further claims that Makerere management failed to implement comprehensive reparations for her and violated her rights to health, dignity, education, equality and non-discrimination.

However, Prof Nawangwe, says the university did all it could to help the student who filed a petition in court.

"She has a right to go to court if she is not satisfied with what we did…for us we think we did whatever we think we should have done," Nawangwe said.

For instance, Nawangwe says, the lecturer who was accused of sexually harassing the student was expelled from the university.

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