IN a country where sexual harassment at the workplace often goes unreported because of social taboos and the fear of losing one’s job, it is a good sign that some complaints are making their way to the authorities that matter. However, as reported in this paper yesterday, complaints of harassment usually come from government departments. To account for this development it has been suggested that job insecurity is greater in the private sector, hence complaints emanating from there have been fewer. The numbers themselves are telling: out of the more than 150 complaints received by the court of the federal ombudsman since 2011, only 13 came from the private sector. But the figures apart, the larger question is, are workplaces taking the law against sexual harassment seriously and doing everything they can to promote an environment where it is clearly understood that such misconduct will not be brooked?
To be sure, the law has taken its course as is evident in some of the cases cited in the newspaper report. But there is a greater need for awareness among workplace staff regarding the code of conduct that the law stipulates and for assurances given by public and private organisations to their employees that charges of harassment will not be given short shrift, and that each complaint will be thoroughly investigated. It is for employers and heads of department to realise that stamping out harassment will help promote productivity and confidence amongst staff members. It is equally important for the staff to understand that reporting cases of harassment will encourage others who have suffered to join in and demand action against sexual predators.