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Ideas & Debate

Tackle violence against women at workplace

Sexual and gender-based violence is increasing
Sexual and gender-based violence is increasing at an alarming rate. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Recently there have been disturbing clips doing rounds on social media. The first is of a female cashier at Eastmatt Supermarket in Kitengela being physically assaulted by her male supervisor as some colleagues look or walk away.

The second is of a female security guard in Komarock Phase 5A being physically assaulted by a man who has been asked to sign the visitors book so as to access the estate.

In both instances no one comes quickly to the rescue of these women as the shocking physical assault is being meted out to them.

A few days later in Parliament an MP threatened to punch two of his female colleagues. The unfortunate truth is that gender-based violence is still very prevalent in the workplace. Gender-based violence affects both men and women however the latter usually bear the brunt of it.

Employers must take measures to ensure that workers are not subjected to sexual and gender-based violence. Appropriate disciplinary action should be taken against any person found guilty of this.

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Human Resource (HR) departments should be very uncomfortable if their organization doesn’t have such a policy in place. They need to be tasked with coming up with a policy statement urgently, that outlines what SGBV entails and ways on how to report should one need to.

In 2016 Justice Hellen Wasilwa ruled in favour of the victim after the company she worked for didn’t have a sexual harassment policy in place thus were in breach of the Employment Act.

Fortunately, the government does not take gender-based violence lightly and one may choose to report the matter to the police. Should there be sufficient grounds the matter will proceed to trial.

However, there there is still need for more public awareness to ensure that Kenyans don’t stand by and watch as an assault is perpetuated.

Along with this awareness the need for proactive strategies to facilitate one’s safety at work and to reduce employers’ economic losses associated with employees’ who experience this harassment is of the utmost importance.

The International Labour Organisation states that gender-based violence affects job performance due to lateness, decreased job retention and stunted career advancement. Victims lose motivation and morale necessary to perform their jobs effectively.

The government should do random spot checks to see if companies have well-articulated standards of employer liability for sexual and gender-based violence if committed by an employee. If not, the company should be heavily penalised.

Companies on the other hand should sensitise employees on sexual and gender-based violence through training programmes, information seminars and educational material easily accessible and visible across the workplace.

All in all, sexual and gender-based violence is still increasing at an alarming rate, and companies’ HR departments should therefore strive to come up with measures that will aid in tackling this problem.

The writer is a communication specialist.

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