It is a blow in the face to sit and listen to media reports in 2018, give details of how a female was sexually harassed in her work place or elsewhere by a former boss or colleague. I can’t help but wonder, why there is a sudden a surge in Sexual Harassment Reports over the last few months. It is even more scary and disappointing to read of sexual harassment cases in the non-profit sector. The sector that is at the fore-front of promoting sexual reproductive health rights, especially for women; just google sex scandals in the non-profit sector. I can’t help but wonder how many women have been victims including the unreported cases, and sadly, the reports seemingly come up after the victim has suffered in unimaginable ways. I can’t help but wonder, why?! This is the 21st century where everyone needs to understand that, “my body – my right”, especially as a woman.

According to the UNAIDS June 2017 Statistical Fact Sheet, 52% of all people living with HIV were women aged 15 and above (15+). Some of the key highlighted factors, were:

  • Violence against women and girls ( including sexual gender based violence)
  • in some settings up to 45 per cent of adolescent girls report that their first sexual experience was forced,
  • worldwide more than 700 million women alive today were married before their eighteenth birthday
  • Women living with HIV are more likely to experience violence, including violations of their sexual and reproductive rights.
  • Globally, only 3 in every 10 adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 years have comprehensive and accurate knowledge about HIV.
  • Poor economic opportunities for women and
  • Women’s access to property and inheritance rights is limited

Triangulating my thoughts on the matter; I look at the above statistics and relate them to the increase in sexual harassment reports in the work place. I realize a huge gap in terms of empowering women to freely have the sexual and reproductive health rights they deserve. It is time that we do more by kicking the problem of sexual harassment with both legs. It is not enough to only come up with stiffer punishments and policies against the perpetrators. My strongest recommendation is that we also look at the causes of sexual harassment and target men too in preventing it from happening. It is time that policies in the work place are made to allow an environment free of victimization, so that victims can report these cases in time and that no woman is victimized or threatened for reporting sexual harassment. It is time that both men and women focus on behavior change and change of mind sets to stamp out all gender stereotypes because clearly, the power balance seems to have an effect on these cases (largely according to the reports, it’s men in senior positions that seem to be the perpetrators). It is time that both men and women are educated and realize that none is above the other, hence, no one should be involved in transactional sex (where it’s abuse or with consent). The authorities must also play a role of protecting the victims and prosecuting the perpetrators under the law, as it is not enough to only fire someone. Authorities should also ensure that systems are functional to manage all this.

I will end with an anonymous quote, “If you are a woman and still think any woman you see succeeding is with rich men then I pity our girl child, if you are a man and still think any woman succeeding must be connected to men then I pity our mothers, sisters and aunties because in your mental, every woman’s success is sexually transmitted”. Let’s stamp out sexual harassment, as we endeavor to empower women!!!

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