VIOLENCE AND HARRASSMENT IN THE TRANSPORT WORKPLACE

Violence and harassment against women is a global evil and kenya, particularly the transport and allied sector is no exception.  Every day rape, dowry related bridal burning, sexual abuse of girl child, female infanticide, abduction for forceful marriage, eve-teasing etc,  are making headlines in newspapers.

Behind every reported case, there are numerous unreported cases simply because of our social structure in which women are stigmatized for life.  There is a proverb in which says that when a throne falls on a leaf or when a leaf falls on a throne, the damage is always only to the leaf.

The current situation clearly indicates that in spite of all our past efforts, legislation e.t.c we are yet to make any dent in the unequal socio-economics structure strewn with exploitation and discrimination.  As in any other establishments, the women in the Transport sector also face violence and chief features are outrage, profanation, physical/mental injury, coercion, exploitation rape etc.  with higher education a few women may reach top position, yet the majority of them are still like frogs in the well, occupying mostly clerical and allied jobs.

Women, who are unwilling to be condemned for life is such jobs and looking for better prospects in demanding jobs, exclusively enjoyed by men, face discriminatory and hostile situation.  It is rather common for women who succeeded entering a male domain being harassed by male colleagues and those higher-up.

If and when she raises her voice against their behavior or attitude, she may even forced to quit the job by creating a situation where in she can no longer continue.  When a  lady supervisor in a port cold-shouldered the advance by colleagues and superiors, she was harassed continuously and when found not to be amenable, she was transferred to the personal section even though she was a qualified, whereas the ports berth itself was handicapped by a shortage of such qualified supervisor.  Incidentally this lady supervisor was able to acquire the higher qualification at the expense of the port, which her male colleagues could not digest.

SEXUAL HARRASSMENT OF WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE

For this purpose, sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether directly or by implication) as:

a.     Physical contact and advances

b.    A demand or request for sexual favors whether by words or actions

c.     Sexually colored remarks

d.    Showing pornography

e.    Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Enacting laws will always remain as an impression on the paper and preaching is always easier done.  When cornered by bullies neither theory nor laws will help the women.  Hence, sexual harassment is and must be a legitimate concern of the Trade Unions.  Trade Unions are duty-bound to educate their members and install suitable machinery to contain if not eradicate this menace.  Trade unions should also discuss the advisability of involving the womenís movement in its deliberations.

Sexual harassment has become a cause for concern among female workers with some organization spear-heading research and campaign against this development.

Violence against women take many forms.  It ranges from beating, psychological abuse and rape.  Its common denominator is that the victims are women and they are victims purely because they are women.  Some definitions include such laws, policies or structural inequalities, there are discrimination and detrimental to women, and could be also construed as being violent.

Sexual harassment is any behavior that is unsolicited unwelcome and sexual nature verbal or unverbal that result in victimization, job loss or working in a hostile environment.  It includes but not limited to the following unwelcome conduct.

  • Grabbing, patting of body parts, kissing

  • Sexist remarks, suggestive comments or practical jokes

  • Soliciting of sexual activity by threat of punishment

  • Exposing pornographic material

  • Rape, attempted  rape

  • Being persistently asked on a date after refusing

  • Carpet interviews

  • Indecent exposure

 

Causes of violence at work places

First line supervisors/managers are predisposed to harassing the women they work with because of certain characteristics:-

 

  •       They suffer from an identity crisis have been promoted and no longer shop-floor operatives and yet not earning enough money to live like an be acceptable to other managers.

 

  •       They usually cannot compete successfully on the open market for the more challenging ladies away form their work situation, and

 

  •       Because of the increasing number of women of the shop-floor which previously was dominated by males, the male workers and supervisors fell threatened and a little insecure.

 

One way out this insecurity and lack of self-confidence is to try to bolster their own ego by reducing the female colleagues to set instruments existing merely to satisfy the males sexual desires.  This justifies harassment in their minds. The naÔve sexist approach in nose cases is reinforced by the fact that the supervisors own wife is a mere housewife and this renders the male supervisor incapable of seeing more than a (misplaced housewife) in his female colleague and shop floor worker.

On another note they justify themselves by saying that he was provoked by actions of his victims and for a moment lost control on a fit of anger and passion.  Often accusations include that the woman had done something that made her deserve the assault.

The fundamental aim is to transfer the blame into the women who has been abused.  Despite all these excuses, violence against women has little to do with the man being aggravated and even less to do with what the victim has done.  Instead, its roots lie in the mans desire to exert control and power over a woman and would occur no matter what she did or did not do.

INTERVENTIONS

a.   Company code of conduct and policies should not be mere guides to accepted and unacceptable behavior at work.  They should definitely include sections in sexual harassment but more as a preventative measure than a curative one.  There is need to be more specific in relation to sexual harassment, including a clear policy condemning such conduct.  Report incidents through unions, employment/works councils, management and the legal system and support victims of sexual harassment psychologically and emotionally.

b.   Gender awareness and sensitivity programmes.  These should continue and be intensified as a way of training and public education to change social attitudes that promote the concept of female as a sex object created to satisfy the male counterparts the need for fun and intimacy.

c.   Research ahs shown that living with sexual harassment has been an added health risk for women.

d.   There should be lobbying for changes, in the labour laws to include sexual harassment as a gross misconduct.  The laws should include a clear statement against sexual harassment, a clear definition of sexual harassment, a clear definition of sexual harassment and procedures to outline a policy for employers with respect to sexual harassment.

Finally, society also sanctions violence against women through failure of the family, the state, media and other civil institutions to protect the rights of women in society.  The roots of violence against women simply lie in the gender based inequalities in our society.  Inadequacies of the legal structure to adequately uphold and protect rights of women in society.  It is only be addressing these fundamental inequalities, through social and legal structures, that significant advances will be made to address violence against. Women.