• January 17th, 2020

Perpetrators of harassment at work should face music

WINDHOEK –- Perpetrators of violence or harassment in the world of work should be held accountable by companies that employ them or the national justice system. 

Where needed, counselling services should be provided to victims with the aim to prevent reoccurrence. 
These are among the recommendations and conclusions reached on violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work in Namibia by Saskia den Adel-Sheehama. 

Den Adel-Sheehama presented her report this week at the labour ministry. It is the result of a three-month study that was contracted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) under the direct supervision of the ministry of labour, its technical working group and the multi-stakeholder task force team.

The study was carried out in Windhoek and focused on three selected sectors, namely domestic work, security and the retail industry. It is recommended that Namibia adopt a comprehensive and gender-responsive strategy to work towards creating a culture of respect in the workplace, improving the working environment, and preventing and ultimately eliminating all forms of violence and harassment. 

The report also recommended that the labour ministry works on better and easier structures for reporting violence and harassment in the world of work, complaint assessment and investigation and timely and efficient processing and follow-up. 

The ministry should also enforce or provide guidance to employers to develop or strengthen internal policies to prevent and control violence and harassment.

In her presentation Den Adel-Sheehama said workplace harassment may lead to domestic violence and vice versa. She said if a person gets bullied or treated with little respect at the workplace, he or she is likely to take out his or her frustration at home and vice versa. 

“Being a victim of domestic violence is likely to influence your behaviour towards others at the workplace,” she noted.

As per the ILO, Den Adel-Sheehama said, the term violence and harassment in the world of work refers to a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices or threats thereof, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at or result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm and includes gender-based violence and harassment.

In the world of work violence and harassment is divided into sexual, verbal, economic and physical harassment.

She added that women employees in junior positions, people with less educational qualifications, people living with HIV and the LGBTI community were amongst those susceptible to violence and harassment at work.

In her findings Den Adel-Sheehama said at least one third of women in Namibia become victims of domestic violence. 

Since both domestic violence and violence and harassment in the world of work are influenced by similar factors, including socio-cultural norms, it could be deducted that violence and harassment in the world of work is widespread in Namibia as well.

In addition, she said, it must be understood that the study had certain limitations. Violence and harassment and in particular sexual harassment are a sensitive topic and not everybody would feel at ease to talk openly about personal topics or traumatic events to a complete stranger. 

“In our case there could have been an additional fear of respondents that disclosure on the topic could lead them losing their source of income or them being victimized at their workplace.”
She said in one case, they had pre-existing information of a domestic worker that was raped by her previous employer but yet during the survey, she did not mention having experienced any violence or harassment of a sexual nature in her career. 

Speaking at the event, Tim Parkhouse of the Namibian Employers’ Federation (NEF) said one of the biggest issues is how can somebody report what has gone wrong. He said in one case a lady complained and the company investigated and found that about four ladies resigned from the same position because they didn’t know what to do because it was the same person harassing them. The man eventually lost his job. 

Parkhouse said they will support what is being done with few limitations.


Selma Ikela
2019-09-20 07:53:33 | 3 months ago

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