Jul 26, 2017

Sexual Harassment in the Work Place | Busayo Adedeji

Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favours. In most modern legal contexts, sexual harassment is illegal.[1] Although the concept of sexual harassment in the work place is not alien to Nigeria, there is a dearth of reported cases on the subject. Reasons that might be attributed to this include:

1.     No precise provision in Employment Relation laws bordering on sexual harassment in the work place;

2.     Victims of sexual harassment not coming out to report the infringement.

The International Labour Organization (“ILO”) in its publication on Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work[2] defined sexual harassment as:
“a sex-based behaviour that is unwelcome and offensive to its recipient.”

For sexual harassment to exist these two conditions must be present.

Sexual harassment may take two forms:
1) Quid Pro Quo, when a job benefit - such as a pay rise, a promotion, or even continued employment - is made conditional on the victim acceding to demands to engage in some form of sexual behaviour; or;

2) hostile working environment in which the conduct creates conditions that are intimidating or humiliating for the victim.

Behaviours that qualifies as sexual harassment include:

PHYSICAL Physical violence, touching, unnecessary proximity.

VERBAL Comments and questions about appearance, life-style, sexual orientation, offensive phone calls.

NON -VERBAL Whistling, sexually-suggestive gestures, display of sexual materials.

The effects of Sexual harassment are both societal and personal. Some common effects include:

·        Psychological suffering including humiliation, reduced motivation, loss of self-esteem.
·        Victims foregoing career opportunities, leaving employment or committing suicide;
·        Women's undermined access to high-status and well-paid jobs, traditionally male-dominated.

The Way Forward

·        Legal Framework against Sexual Harassment must be put in place and clear institutions to enforce the regulations must also be defined and set up.

·        Efforts must be made to create awareness amongst the workforce on issues bordering on sexual harassment.

·        Companies should endeavour to have standing sexual harassment policies that will be known to all employees.

In conclusion, it is pertinent to state that the sexual harassment phenomenon is one that keeps spreading like a wild fire leaving is ashes behind and it is high time our lawmakers step up and pass laws to regulate this menace in the work place.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_harassment
[2] http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_norm/---declaration/documents/publication/wcms_decl_fs_96_en.pdf

Busayo Adedeji

Regulatory Compliance & Commercial law advisor
Busayo advises clients on corporate immigration issues, advising clients on employment and labour law issues, ensuring that clients are in line with regulatory compliance rules, civil litigation etc