How do I combat sexual harassment plaguing female peers on campus?

 I want to ensure that every female student understands sexual harassment.

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Dear Vivian,

I am a university student with an intention to run for a student leader position. One of my agenda is to ensure that every female student understands sexual harassment. How can I organise a legal program to reach them on this issue? 


Chuka University.

Dear Risper,

Sexual harassment is a pervasive issue and its impact within university settings is particularly concerning. Universities have now become a breeding place for such cases. This is normally orchestrated by power dynamics and hierarchical structures.

Kenya boasts of a legal framework that addresses sexual harassment, providing avenues for recourse and protection for victims. The Sexual Offences Act specifically criminalises sexual harassment, defining it as persistent unwelcome sexual advances or requests by individuals in positions of authority or holding public office. The Act imposes penalties, including imprisonment and fines, for perpetrators of sexual harassment. It encompasses any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature that interferes with an individual's ability to participate fully in university life, including academic, social, or extracurricular activities.

Sexual harassment could manifest in inappropriate comments, gestures, advances, or even coercion and assault. It creates an environment of fear, intimidation, and discrimination. The repercussion is that it hinders the educational and personal development of students, particularly female students who are disproportionately affected by such misconduct. In fact, the pressure to quickly graduate and get a job opportunity does not make it easier.

Organising a legal program to reach female students requires a multi-faceted approach aimed at raising awareness, providing support, and advocating for systemic change. First, conducting educational workshops and seminars focused on sexual harassment awareness is crucial. Empowering students with knowledge and information is key to fostering a culture of transparency and accountability.

Second, establishing support services and resources within the university is imperative. This includes setting up confidential reporting mechanisms, legal aid clinics and counselling services, specifically tailored to address such incidents. You should also create safe spaces where survivors can seek guidance and emotional support. Moreover, partnering with local NGOs, legal aid organisations, and women's rights groups can expand the reach and effectiveness of these support initiatives.

You could also consider lobbying for the implementation or enhancement of sexual harassment policies, strengthening disciplinary procedures for perpetrators and ensuring adequate resources for prevention and response. While lobbying, you could engage with university administration, faculty members, student representatives and relevant authorities through campaigns, petitions and dialogues. On campaigns, maximise on international days such as the 16 days of activism or International Women’s Day.

It is important to note that organising a legal program to address sexual harassment concerns, among female students, requires a holistic and proactive approach encompassing awareness-raising, support services, advocacy and cultural change efforts. By leveraging legal frameworks, community resources, and collaborative partnerships, student leaders can effectively champion the rights and dignity of all students and contribute to building safer and more equitable university environments.


The writer is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and award-winning Civil Society lawyer. [email protected]