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Addressing concerns of workplace harassment, productivity 

By Collins Olayinka, Abuja
26 October 2021   |   3:54 am
Harassment in the workplace is not synonymous with the female gender as generally believed but could be situational and largely depends on the motives of the perpetrator.

Chris Ngige

Harassment in the workplace is not synonymous with the female gender as generally believed but could be situational and largely depends on the motives of the perpetrator. Harassment could be between a boss and a junior worker or between contemporaries.
 
Experts said productivity will suffer in an environment where workplace harassment is prevalent. Murna Loma of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, said apart from low productivity, victims of workplace harassment also suffer mental ill-health.  
   
She mentioned that over a third of women who have been raped develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which if untreated and persists in the long term could lead to depression, suicide and substance abuse. Men who have been raped are at risk of alcohol abuse, depression and suicide.

   
Indeed, violence also has significant economic consequences. The high rate of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) places a heavy burden on the health and criminal justice system, as well as rendering many survivors unable to work or otherwise move freely in society. 
     
The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the cost of GBV at $5.8 billion each year for direct medical and mental care services and lost productivity from paid work and household chores, thereby costing economies money and lost productivity from paid work.
     
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No.190 on Violence and Harassment (2019) identifies violence and harassment as violations directed at persons because of their sex or gender, or affecting persons of a particular sex or gender disproportionately, and includes sexual harassment.  
   
Convention 190 says such violations include: physical abuse; sexual violence; verbal abuse; bullying; economic and financial abuse; and sexual harassment.
   
However, there are different forms of violence. These types of violence can be – and almost always are – gendered in nature, because of how gendered power inequalities are entrenched in society.
   
GBV can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or structural, and can be perpetrated by intimate partners, acquaintances, strangers and institutions. Most acts of interpersonal gender-based violence are committed by men against women, and the man perpetrating the violence is often known by the woman, such as a partner or family member, experts say.
   
The expectations associated with different genders vary from society to society and over time. Patriarchal power structures dominate in many societies, in which male leadership is seen as the norm, and men hold the majority of power. Patriarchy is a social and political system that treats men as superior to women – where women cannot protect their bodies, meet their basic needs, participate fully in society and men perpetrate violence against women with impunity.
   
There are two types of violence; Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Domestic Violence. Acting Director, Productivity Measurement and Labour Standards Department, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Juliana Adebambo said challenges in efforts to eliminate violence against women in Nigeria can be legal or cultural. 
   
She said: “A section of the Nigerian constitution does not allow a foreigner husband of a Nigerian woman to become a Nigerian citizen. A section of the penal code applicable in Northern Nigeria permits wife battery as chastisement if grievous harm is not indicted. A provision in the Labour Act prohibits women from working at night. Culturally, it is not usual for women to speak up in public in certain contexts; hence so many female victims of violence may suffer in silence.
  
“There is a prevalence of a culture of silence, shaming and further victimization of victims. There is lax enforcement of violence against women and lack of institutional will to bring perpetrators to book.” She added that to reduce cases of violence against women, the Nigerian government has put the following structures in place: a section on Sexual Harassment was included in the Labour Standards Bill (Section 24) during the Tripartite Retreat on the Review of National Labour Bills, which was held 2nd -4th March 2020; Nigeria adopted in 2006 a Framework and Plan of Action for the National Gender Policy. 
   
Consequently, the federal and state governments adopted several legislative and policy instruments, including The Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act of 2015, which prohibits female genital mutilation, harmful widowhood practices, harmful traditional practices and all forms of violence against persons in both private and public life.
     
To speed up the fight against harassment, she called for the ratification of ILO C190 Violence and Harassment in the World of Work Convention, 2019. 
     
Adebambo added that strengthening and empowering all Gender Desk Units/Focal Persons in MDAs is also necessary while developing guidelines on domestic workers as provided for in Section 88 of the extant Labour Act L1, Cap 1, LFN 2004 will help to stem all forms of GBV against domestic workers.
     
She suggested that mainstreaming gender issues into all aspects of Labour Administration, particularly with regards to the informal sector where women are present in large numbers and formal labour standards are rarely applied, would be of great help. 
   
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige also called on stakeholders to collaborate with the government in the campaign against workplace harassment and violence in the country.
   
Ngige stated that Convention 190 is the first international treaty to recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.
   
Represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr. Peter Tarfa, Ngige noted that eliminating harassment and violence in the workplace aligned with the Federal Government’s determination to create an enabling working environment for men and women in the country, as applicable in developed economies of the world.
     
The Minister disclosed that the Federal Government was committed to ratifying ILO Convention 190 Recommendation 206 on Violence and Harassment to strengthen the already existing institutional and legal framework to fight violence and harassment, as well as GBV in the country.
     
He stated that the workshop was aimed at creating awareness and sensitizing stakeholders and the general public on the ills of gender-based violence, as well as the importance of C190 in combating violence and harassment, including GBV in the world of work.
     
According to Ngige, the workshop was expected to generate awareness among the relevant stakeholders on the need to ratify the Convention. 
   
Ngige stated that C190 represented an opportunity to shape a future of work based on dignity and respect for all, adding that creating awareness on the importance of C190 would serve to generate public acceptance of it.
     
He noted that GBV would impact negatively on the world of work, and impede the realisation of “Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goals 5 and 8on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, and Decent Work and Economic Growth respectively.”
     
The Minister said: “Due to the critical nature of the Convention, ILO has embarked on a global campaign to build support for C190, inviting all its constituents, stakeholders and civil society to join hands to ensure wide acceptance of the Convention.
     
“This is intended to have the Member States ratify and implement the provisions of the Convention all around the world. It is expected that Governments of Member States that ratify C190 will put in place the necessary laws and policy measures to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work.” 
     
He stated that as part of an effort to check violence and harassment, and GBV, Nigeria already had in place a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) on Gender-Based Violence.
     
Ngige added: “Efforts by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to declare a state of emergency on Gender-Based Violence; the inauguration of the Inter-Ministerial Gender-Based Violence Management Committee; the Senate approved of the Sexual Harassment, Bill.
     
“Furthermore, in June 2021, the National Human Rights Commission, the Nigeria Police, and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) signed an agreement to formally join forces to combat GBV.”
     
In a goodwill message, the Director, ILO Country Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Vanessa Phala, represented by Chinyere Emeka-Anunu, pledged the commitment of ILO to continue supporting Nigeria as it embarked on the journey for the ratification and implementation of C190.
 

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