COORDINATOR, Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Response Team (DSVRT), Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, has urged public servants in the state to report cases of sexual harassment at their offices and workplaces.
She stated this while speaking on a webinar training programme with the theme “Understanding POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace)” organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions for workers in the State Public Service.
The coordinator described sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature”, adding that it has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
Vivour-Adeniyi said that sexual harassment does not literally have to be sexual in nature but rather, can simply comprise comments or behaviours that create a hostile or offensive work environment.
She, however, noted that the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, but that sexual harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe.
While noting that Section 262 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State provides that “Any person who sexually harasses another in Lagos State is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment of three years on conviction”, she advised that sexually harassed staff should keep a diary, save any evidence, tell someone, meet with a therapist, speak up and speak out.
The DSVRT Coordinator, therefore, suggested that the Lagos State Public Service Rules (PSR) should have provisions that address sexual harassment in the public service, maintaining that there should be zero tolerance for all forms of sexual harassment in the public service with stringent rules against harassment put in place to serve as a deterrence, while a safe system of reporting harassment should be instituted.
Earlier, in his address on the webinar series, the Permanent Secretary, Office of Establishments and Training, Mr. Abiodun Bamgboye stressed that sexual harassment, if not properly handled or reported, could lead to depression and ultimately become a psychological issue on the part of the victim.
He observed that sexual harassment can only be examined under grievances and whistle blowing in the extant PSR, noting that public servants, due to cultural orientation, hardly report sexual harassment because of stigmatisation.
Bamgboye, however, enjoined anyone in the public service that had been sexually harassed to rise above the hurdle and report such incident immediately.