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The Importance of Sexual Harassment Policies in the Workplace Can Cities

SEXUAL harassment in the workplace and educational settings is nothing new it creates an environment that demeans people and may have a negative impact on individual performance and effectiveness as well as organizational productivity and morale.

Although sensitivity to this complex issue has been heightened recently, much confusion exists, even about exactly what constitutes sexual harassment, as well as about modalities appropriate for dealing with the problem.

It is incumbent on employers, organizations, and institutions to represent all their constituents, male as well as female and provides education plus guidance to facilitate the eradication of this destructive behaviour. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Any conduct of a sexual nature that makes an employee uncomfortable has the potential to be sexual harassment. Given this broad definition, it is not surprising that sexual harassment comes in many forms. The following are few examples: A supervisor implies to an employee that the employee must sleep with him to keep a job, making demeaning comments about female colleagues to his co-workers, pinching and fondles a coworker against their will.

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, manager, or co-worker. An employer may even be liable for harassment by a nonemployee (such as a vendor or customer), depending on the circumstances. Sexual harassment is a gender-neutral offence, at least in theory: Men can sexually harass women, and women can sexually harass men.

However, statistics show that the overwhelming majority of sexual harassment claims and charges are brought by women claiming that they were sexually harassed by men.

Strategies for prevention include adopting a clear sexual harassment policy that defines sexual harassment, a state in no uncertain terms that you will not tolerate sexual harassment, state that you will discipline or fire any wrongdoers and set out a clear procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints.

The policy should as well state that you will investigate fully any complaint that you receive and state that you will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who complains about sexual harassment. Train your employees at least once a year what sexual harassment is, explain that employees have a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, review your complaint procedure and encourage the employee to use it.

It is equally crucial to train supervisors and managers separate from the employee sessions. The sessions should educate the managers and supervisors about sexual harassment and explain how to deal with complaints. In 2017, the Sexual Harassment and gender-based violence in Tanzania’s public service survey told us that 21 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men had experienced sexual harassment personally.

Overall, rural-based public servants had less knowledge of relevant policies and experienced more sexual harassment than their urban colleagues. The majority of perpetrators were identified as men in senior positions; the majority of victims were recognized to be young female employees.

Frequently reported behaviours included sexual bribery with regard to resource allocation, promotions, allowances, and other benefits. In Tanzania, the law prohibits any form of sexual harassment in the workplace as well as any other environment.

The Employment and Labour Relations Act, 2004 has termed it as a form of discrimination, prohibited it and provided for a penalty of fine not exceeding five million shillings. The Code of Ethics and Conduct for Public Service is very clear and detailed in the areas of sexual harassment and what constitutes sexual harassment in employment.

It states that a public servant shall refrain from having sexual relationships at the workplace. Likewise he or she will avoid all types of conduct which may constitute sexual harassment which include: Pressure for sexual activity or sexual favours with a fellow employee, rape, sexual battery and molestation or any sexual assault, intentional physical conduct which is sexual in nature such as unwelcome touching, pinching, patting, grabbing and or brushing against another employee’s body, hair or clothes.

It further states that sexual innuendos, gestures, noises, jokes, comments or remarks to another person about one’s sex or body. Offering or receiving preferential treatment, promises or rewards and offering or submitting to sexual favours.

The Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, 1998 has also criminalised sexual harassment and the following are termed as kind of behaviours amounting to sexual harassment: causing sexual annoyance to a person, uttering any word, making any sound or gesture, or exhibiting any object, including any organ whether male or female intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that the gesture shall be seen by a woman.

The law requires every employer to strive to eliminate sexual harassment or discrimination in any employment policy. The law has gone to the extent of wanting the employer to register a plan to eliminate discrimination at the workplace with the Labour Commissioner.

As an employer, regardless of whether you are a large-scale organisation or small business, you have a responsibility to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment. It is vital that employers and managers take active steps to promote a safe and positive workplace for their employees.

In group environments such as the workplace, sexual harassment can have an unfortunate cumulative effect on other staff that bears witness to the behaviour, serving to reinforce and normalize negative male/ female stereotypes – especially if the behaviour is not stopped. This is why it’s so important to speak up when you see or hear something unacceptable, even if you are not in a management position.

SADC is an acronym for the Southern African ...

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Author: HILDA MHAGAMA

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