Research On Workplace Sexual Harassment In Nigeria By Stand To End Rape Initiative (STER)


Nigeria is a land flowing with liquid gold. We can compare the wealth associated with our rich culture and fertility of the soil beneath our feet to tales of magical fantasy lands. However, living in Nigeria can feel like anything but riches – so what happens when the very place you earn your daily bread becomes
a place of torment?

For many people, this is the case, as workplace sexual harassment is a problem plaguing our nation and the world.

Stand to End Rape Initiative (STER) sort to uncover just how prevalent this problem was, and the results were distressing but, sadly, not shocking. Previous studies indicated a high prevalence rate of workplace sexual harassment, such as 63.5% and 73.7% from the Legal and other employment sectors in Lagos.

In a survey carried out across the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria in the formal workplace sector, STER discovered that 3 out of every five workers had experienced sexual harassment at work. This problem cuts across various occupations from highly specialized sectors like the medical and legal sectors. Participants reported being
sexually harassed in small, medium, and large-sized companies.

STER gathered that from the findings that the highest rates of harassment occurred at large-sized organizations.
Sexual harassment ranged from inappropriate jokes or lewd comments and sexually explicit content being shared without consent to clear assault with a subset of people reporting sexual abuse and rape by members of their workplace.

The terror of sexual harassment in the workplace is unique in its ability to take away one’s source of sustenance and the fuel needed to keep a person or family running in a tough economic clime. Indeed, sexual harassment in the workplace has caused some respondents anxiety that was severe enough to affect their productivity in the workplace, which is just one part of the story. Many employees faced threats, overtly and by inference, would lose a big
contract, promotion or even their job if they did not give in to sexual relations with someone at work.

Conversely, like a carrot dangled before a starving horse, many are offered financial benefits in exchange for sex. When these survivors go home, the terror goes with them, like a dark shadow they can never shed. The research findings show that about 75% of respondents who had experienced sexual harassment from assessing the responses suffered from adverse mental health outcomes, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.
These are alarming statistics, no doubt, do long-lasting damage to an individual and indeed a family and the broader society.

Workplace sexual harassment is often perceived as a hierarchical relationship between a boss and an employee. While this has some truth to it, STER’s survey revealed that many sexual harassers were, in fact, co-workers. Working closely with an individual may require physically being in someone’s personal space; this provides ample opportunity for abusers to commit the crimes they do undetected. From a society that often laden survivors and not their harassers with the guilt of causing damage to a harasser’s farce reputation, survivors in Nigeria face an
uphill battle and carry the burden of the injustice meted out to them at work.

Among the few who decide to speak, there is often confusion about what constitutes a reportable offence or the complexity of grey areas that constitutes sexual harassment. After skipping this hurdle, survivors again
typically face the issue of not having information on the process of filing an official complaint. Either intentional or not, survivors face multiple obstacles instead of the support they need.

Of all the incidents of sexual harassment noted, only about 7 in 100 were reported to senior staff members or the organization’s management. Those who reported the incident through formal channels faced another challenge in our society –the apparent lack of adequate sanctions for sexual crime perpetrators. Most harassers walked away with absolutely zero sanctions of the few reported cases, while some perpetrators received mere verbal warnings.

Giving abysmal sanctions for committing heinous offences like sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace adds more tension to an environment with its pressures. It is no wonder that many (62% from the survey) choose to shrug it off and move on when faced with sexual harassment at work. They are in the proverbial situation of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. In a nation with millions below the poverty line, sexual harassment in the place of income generation is an especially harmful crime. Perpetrators need to face the full extent of disciplinary measures within the workplace and then in law courts. Survivors need to be supported to repair the damage caused to them and their families at large.

In conclusion, there is a vast gap in organizational responses to workplace sexual harassment,
which can be done by setting up training on workplace sexual harassment, setting up firm
policies, and providing employee support in terms of psychosocial support.We at STER remain committed to sensitizing society on the importance of eliminating all forms of sexual abuse through our vast resources, prevention mechanisms and training.

 

For further enquiries, you can reach us on +2348095967000 or contactus@standtoendrape.org.

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