Coming to terms with sexual harassment in Ghana

Type Journal Article - Retrieved November
Title Coming to terms with sexual harassment in Ghana
Volume 20
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2004
Page numbers 2009-0
Scholars and the general public have not paid much attention to non-rape forms of sex discrimination, such as sexual harassment. The concept is seen to suffer from ambiguity, and is often confused with courting or playful flirting. When it finally did receive attention sexual harassment was seen almost exclusively as a workplace phenomenon. The mainvii objective of the study was to generate insight into Ghanaian perspectives on sexual harassment in relation to the definition, sites of harassment, experiences and perspectives on redress. The research was basically exploratory, and involved semi-structured field interviews with 144 men and 154 women (total of 298 participants) from the University of Ghana and public offices in Accra, Takoradi and Tamale, plus four narrative histories. Information gathering for the study spanned the period 1994 to 2002. The data was analysed using descriptive statistical methods. In addition, comments from open-ended questions in the interviews were analysed through indexing, charting and direct use as quotations in the report. The study revealed the multiplicity of contexts in which harassment could occur apart from the workplace. The findings further showed that, sexual harassment was widely understood as ‘unwanted or unwelcome sexual advances.’ But people’s sentiments about the offence suggested a tension between widespread traditionalist male-biased ideas in Ghana that portray women as subordinate sex objects and sensitivity to the growing feminist campaign against the objectification of women and abuse of women’s rights. It also came out that for society and the individual offender, blaming the victim in cases of sexual harassment superseded acceptance of impropriety, a situation that tended to obstruct progress towards attitudinal change, and systems of redress. Complaints about harassment therefore, expose the victim to stigma, shame and possible reprisals. Consequently, many reports of harassment are treated informally. Attention was also drawn to the often-neglected issue of male victims of sexual harassment. One of the main conclusions of the study is that sexual harassment represents part of a culture of male power and masculinity and the pursuit of women as instruments of sexual gratification

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