What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, sexual harassment?
Is it being touched inappropriately, is it unwelcomed sexual advances, is it someone at work asking for sexual favours or is it verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature? The answer is; all of these qualify as sexual harassment.
The UN, states that sexual harassment comes in different forms and it constitutes any improper and unwanted request or advances that might reasonably be considered to cause harm or humiliation to another person.
Whether by phone or face to face, sexual harassment takes the form of words, actions or gestures that end up alarming, annoying, irritating, intimidating, belittling or demeaning someone and thus creating a hostile environment.
In light of international women’s day 2020- whose fundamental objective is to promote gender equality – a report made by Truecaller couldn’t arrive at a better time.
The report, which was conducted by Ipsos in various countries including in Kenya, India, Brazil, Egypt and Colombia, revealed that Kenya takes the lead with 9 out of 10 women falling victim to sexual harassment calls and SMS.
Through face to face interviews and quantitative research, which were the methods used to investigate this menace, Ipsos found that;
- Sexual harassment calls are most common in women. Generally, 1 out of 5 women claimed to receive such nuisance and harassment calls.
- Inmates make 47% of the harassment calls and SMS sent to random women while 53% of the same comes from unknown harassers.
- Out of the 9 women who experience phone harassment in Kenya only 2 take action. This could be because, in most contexts, sexual harassment remains a grey area and not many people notice when they are being harassed. Until someone else mentions a similar incident – Only 11% of the women who received such inappropriate calls and SMS regarded them as harassment. Maybe it is because such harassment cases are not considered serious crimes. Read this; story of a woman who could only turn to social media for help against sexual harassment.
- As the Trucaller report mirrors, lack of support and local attitudes stifle the voice of women receiving such calls/SMS, preventing them from speaking out or getting further guidance. Only 6% of the affected make a report to the authority.
- By virtue of this, it is also worth to note that apart from anger and irritation, such calls and SMS elicited fear and worry.
- The topmost affected areas were in the urban including; Nairobi, Mombasa, Kiambu and Nakuru.
This report just goes to show the complexities of sexual harassment, but more, it begs the question; if sexual harassment is this rampant over the phone, what skeletons may be uncovered in different industries?
So far, it is clear to see that common issues in various sexual harassment incidents include;
- The affected not knowing who to turn to for needed help,
- How to respond or,
- Defend oneself against the attacker.
When it comes to phone harassment, what’s shocking is that local attitudes and authorities do not acknowledge it unless it is severe.
This explains why the data provided by Truecaller highlighted that; 49% of the women responded by blocking the caller’s number, 40% ignored the calls/SMS, 32% sought help from the operator, 29% responded by telling the harasser to stop while only 6% made a complaint to the authorities.
From an article published by Sde, one psychology professor John Pryor highlights that “admissions of being a victim are stigmatising.”
In regards to sexual harassment, the more people come out the lesser the stigma.
As echoed by Telegraph, #MeToo movement has given voice to women, on the abuse and harassment happening in different areas and industries around the world.
This brings into view the international women’s day theme for 2020, which is #EachforEqual. It highlights that change starts with an individual and if we are to break stereotypes, fight prejudice, violence, harassment and make a positive change for women everywhere, wouldn’t WE (men and women) achieve gender parity sooner than the apparent 2186, 167 years away?
You can view the full Truecaller report here.
Also, check out the 5 ways you can intervene and help a sexual harassment victim.