Sensitization on Sexual Harassment Staged

Mr. Phil Otieno leads the sensitization exercise

In efforts to address sexual harassment in the university, the Directorate of Gender and Mentoring Centre of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), in collaboration with Badili Africa, organized a two-day training and sensitization workshop of the University community on sexual harassment on the 5th and 6th of July 2023.

The training, which took place at African Institute for Capacity Development brought together stakeholders with the aim of forging new pathways to address sexual harassment in the university through policy strengthening.

The recently released Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2022, offers a bleak picture of sexual violence in Kenya. According to the survey, 13% of women have suffered sexual assault at some time in their life, and 7% have experienced sexual violence in the last 12 months. Furthermore, the study found that over 40% of students in Kenya’s public universities experienced some type of harassment, with more than 68% of these students being female. Sex and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is not merely a Kenyan problem, but a global crisis.

In her opening remarks, the Director of the Directorate of Gender and Mentoring Centre Prof. Wanjiru Wanyoike said that some female university students are hesitant to run for political positions, partly due to sexual harassment, which is mostly perpetrated by people they know.

“The harassment frequently includes unwanted explicit messages and sexual advances, as well as forced sex.” Unfortunately, the majority of these incidents go unreported, and the perpetrators are seldom prosecuted since victims rarely report owing to stigma because they are socially close to the perpetrators,” Prof. Wanyoike explained. “The Dean of Students’ office rarely receives such reports,” she added.

She further urged the students to be ready to open up to people they can trust like university counselors, student peer counselors among others; adding that JKUAT was ready to assist the victims in any way possible so that they can get justice for the assault.

In a keynote address, Mr. Phil Otieno, Executive Director of Advocate for Social Change Kenya (ADSOCK), said sexual harassment can take many forms, including touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker’s back, grabbing an employee around the waist, or interfering with an employee’s ability to move.

He also stated that unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive phrases on clothing, and unwanted comments and clever responses are all wrong, stressing that the law encourages survivors to always find a method to report such crimes to the relevant authorities so that justice can be served.

A section of the participants keenly following proceedings

“Where a person in a position of authority, such as a boss at work or a public officer, uses his/her position to try and force another person to have sexual intercourse with them against their will,” he said, “that person in authority or that public officer is guilty of sexual harassment and shall be jailed for three (3) years or more or fined Kshs 100,000 or both.” “However, the person claiming sexual harassment must prove whether the harassment was to decide whether s/he was to get employment, or assistance from the person harassing them, or otherwise,” he added.

While praising the Gender Directorate for the training, Mr. Jeremiah Muuo, a third-year Development studies student and member of the Campusmetoo club, urged the management to help them create awareness amongst the students about sexual harassment, as most of them are afraid of the consequences of speaking.

He encouraged students to speak up and report the harassment they frequently endure, particularly during campaigns, so that the culprits can face the full force of the law.

Sexual harassment is motivated by power, not by sexual attraction. A harasser’s actions are frequently intended to embarrass or intimidate the victim. Sexual harassment can be quite damaging. According to studies, the majority of harassment has nothing to do with “flirtation” or genuine sexual or social interest. It is, rather, disrespectful, terrifying, and demeaning to the survivor. As long as it goes against the survivor’s choice, offends, humiliates, or intimidates her/him, the survivor has grounds to believe it constitutes sexual harassment.

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