Protect women from workplace sexual violence

Sexual violence

The law provides clear protocols for documentation and provision of justice to survivors of SGBV.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

Research shows that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is prevalent at the workplace in Kenya, though most cases go unreported. This is due to factors such as fear of losing one’s job, unclear workplace grievance filing mechanisms, limited awareness among staff as well as fear of victimisation and being accused of making inappropriate advances to the perpetrators.

A study conducted by the University of London in 2020 indicated that in Kenya, almost 80 per cent of women respondents had experienced sexual harassment at least one time at the workplace, while 40 per cent had experienced it five or more times.

In the study, which was conducted in selected African countries, Kenya was ranked high, with 29.7 per cent of male participants saying they had experienced sexual harassment. The researchers found that 82 per cent female and 98 per cent male respondents had not attempted to report the matter.

Even where victims do not seek justice or health interventions, the majority suffer from depression, psychological instability, feelings of helplessness, humiliation and STI transmission, including HIV/Aids.

Official data shows a majority of the more than 17.4 million Kenyans who were in employment as of 2020 spend six to eight hours daily at the workplace.

Justice to survivors

The International Labour Convention (C-190) of 2019 holds that everyone has a right to a world of work that is free from violence and harassment. The 2016 Kenya Sexual Offence Act and the 2007 Employment Act also provide clear protocols for documentation and provision of justice to survivors of SGBV.

The Ministry of Labour should ratify and domesticate the above mentioned C-190. It is also crucial for the tripartite+ partners, including the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU-K), Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), the ministries of Health, Labour and Education to review occupational health and safety guidelines and provide for SGBV reporting as well as protection of workers, more so women. This would boost productivity and help actualise Kenya’s commitment to ending SGBV by 2026.

Ms Boit is advocacy Programmes Manager, Reproductive Health Network Kenya: [email protected]