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Anti-sexual violence policies need to be strengthened at media houses

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development (MoGLSD) wants each corporate organisation, particularly the media, to have inter-gender mainstreaming policies to deal with sexual and gender-based violations.  This follows a study done in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania in the period 2016 to 2021, that showed that while most violations of freedom rights (88 percent) were against male journalists, most of the sexual and gender-based ones were against females.

There was consensus, however, that the cases of sexual harassment and gender-based violations are much higher than stated because both male and female journalists many times choose not to report when offended for various reasons. They include suggestive sexual language to the opposite gender, “bad touches”, sexual demands with promises of favors at the job, and discriminatory employment terms among others.

Anett Kabarungi, Principal Women in Development Officer at MoGLSD says the policies should include sensitisation and mechanisms for redress, adding that there is a higher chance that men will not report being sexually harassed because of societal reasons.

Kabarungi said that from discussions and the report itself, many people do not actually understand what amounts to gender-based and sexual harassment. Speaking at the dissemination of the report findings in Kampala, Kabarungi suggested that media managers should be allowed to take up the positions after signing a contract that provides for adherence to laws against GBV at work.

The report dubbed “The gendered dimensions of journalists’ safety in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda” was commissioned by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) and UNESCO. Peter Okello Jabweli, a board member of the Uganda Media Council said sexual violence at work thrives mainly because of poor pay of journalists which encourages their bosses to take advantage of them.

He said that the media laws and the Code of Ethics provide for the protection of workers against such violence.

Releasing the findings, Brian Mutebi, a Gender, and Media consultant said that even away from work, female journalists suffer more including marital conflicts especially when the working time conflicts with their domestic demands. According to him, women are also more vulnerable to attacks than men when they move at night from work, and naturally, men more easily adapt to the challenges, fight off or seek redress than their female counterparts.

Unfortunately, he says sometimes men have what he calls a sense of entitlement and many times feel it is ok to behave in a particular way towards women even when it amounts to violence. On the contrary, he says man chose to stay quiet for fear of adverse repercussions.

This was also echoed by Okello Jabweli, who said the little pay for journalists and the absence of employment contracts in most cases make them vulnerable to exploitation by their bosses. He called for enhanced sensitization of females about their rights and the available channels for redress.

On her part, Sylvia Nankya, the Secretary General of, the Uganda Editors’ Guild blamed female journalists’ behavior towards men especially the way they sometimes dress, which exposes them to harassment. She however said she had never  encountered journalists with reports of being sexually harassed at the workplace. She encouraged reporting of cases to any authority including external ones like the labor office.

The study featured 22 respondents including journalists, media managers government, NGO, and academia representatives as well as experts. The safety of journalists has always been an issue, arising both from within the workplace and outside, despite the existence of national and international laws, policies, and conventions that protect the freedoms of the media.

UMC’s Jabweli partly blamed this on the media fraternity itself for fighting any state efforts to regulate the industry, which, according to him, would make it easier to enforce some protections. Gilbert Sendugwa, the Executive Director of AFIC, said there is a need to increase the advocacy for journalists’ safety and push for a sustainable mechanism to ensure the prevention of cases rather than reaction when things have happened.



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