Believe it or not, but one in two women, 43 percent of gender non-conforming individuals and 19,5 percent of men in African media have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.

This is according to a recent research conducted by Women In News. The cases of harassment are likely higher since only 30 percent of sexual incidents had been reported, the research found.

The study also heard from 584 respondents in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia that several women did not report incidents of sexual harassment for fear of victimisation or lack of confidence that any action would be taken against perpetrators, mainly because some of them would be people in authority in the workplace.

The low reporting rate was in spite of the fact that 46,12 percent of the respondents told the study that they had witnessed at least one incident of sexual harassment, while 16 percent had witnessed five or more.

The study found that in reported incidents, action was only in 42 percent of the cases. The most common actions taken following complaints included the issuing of warnings against perpetrators, emotional support for victims, dismissal of cases after review, and providing training for staff on sexual harassment, the research report said.

Verbal abuse of women was rife, with 56 percent reporting that they had been victims, while 38 percent reported physical harassment. Half of gender non-conforming individuals reported verbal harassment and 36 percent said they had been physically harassed, the study found.

Nearly half of the respondents (46,7 percent) told the study that there was no sexual harassment policy in their workplaces. Media managers were  in denial of the problem, with 46 percent of 32 surveyed claiming there was no sexual harassment problem in the industry.

Other main findings include:

  • Almost half of women respondents had been sexually harassed at work (47%).
  • Women were twice as likely to experience sexual harassment at work than men.
  • For one in two women, the harassment was verbal (56%), and for one in three, it was physical (38%). • Only 30% of cases of sexual harassment were ever reported to management.
  • Fear of reprisals is the most common driver behind non-reporting. But lack of faith in the organisation’s management and awareness of reporting systems also plays a part.
  • When they did receive formal complaints, news organisations took action in 42% of cases.
  • Persons in authority are the perpetrators of sexual harassment in four out of ten cases, either as a direct supervisor (21.5%) or person from higher management (19.5%).
  • Sexual harassment is often taking place openly: 46% had witnessed at least one incident, with 16.5% stating they had seen five or more cases.
  • Non-conforming individuals experienced sexual harassment almost as often as women. One in two (50%) had been verbally harassed, and 36% had been physically harassed.
  • Of the 32 managers interviewed, more than half had been sexually harassed. Only three reported this.
  • Some 47% said their organisations had no sexual harassment policy, and then, of those where a policy existed, just 17% knew its contents.

The report also offers tools to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.