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“Sexual harassment: an issue in universities”
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“Sexual harassment: an issue in universities”

Internationally and close to home, there is pressure to address the issue of sexual harassment. Munguongeyo Ivan, 24, a Correspondent from Kampala, Uganda, argues that removing harassment is essential for equality of academic opportunity.

Sexual harassment is of great concern in higher institutions of learning, and cannot be separated from issues of educational equity.

Recently, two great higher institutions of learning – Kibuli Secondary School and Makerere University – were ion the spotlight for alleged sexual harassment by their staff. Much as one of Kibuli’s staff was sent on forced leave on January 24 for the allegations, Makerere University is still grappling with cases of sexual immorality by some of the senior staffs and lecturers.

Recently, another victim of sexual molestation at the university posted pictures of herself on social media being sexually molested by a senior administrative assistant. In such scenarios, many questions come to my mind.

Should University staff enter in to sexual relationship with their students? Should we simply view it as consent between two mature adults, or should we view it as a direct abuse of power by the academics on their students? And how can higher institutions of learning get rid of this shameful problem?

It is very hard to answer such questions, and many people are left divided about which side to take. Proponents argue that University students are over the age of 18 years, which the Constitution prescribes as the age of consent. They argue that lecturers have all the rights to have sexual relationships with whoever they chose, including their students and other members of the public.

Opponents, however, view these relationships as morally unacceptable acts.

In this sense, I view such relationships as an abuse of power, because staff in higher institutions of learning are granted a great deal of power and authority over students irrespective of whether the latter are male or female, young or old. They are superior in status and influence compared to their student counterparts, especially the young girls who are vulnerable despite being above 18 years of age.

In a patriarchal society like Uganda, men are elevated above women, as the family and schools vigorously teach the young to respect the elderly group. Fuse those elements together, and it becomes apparent that the University must seek to ensure that all students are protected from exploitation from the staff seeking to abuse the authority and power they inevitably have over students.

This can be done through establishing an outstanding committee to investigate such accusations and take legal actions against the perpetrators. We should also extend the student autonomy, consider the environment under which the students meet their lecturers or teaching staff, and improve the information flow between the students and the administration to report such mischievous acts.

Institutions of higher learning should ensure that the authority they delegate is properly exercised, which will help in making sexual harassment as unacceptable in academia as plagiarism and bribery.

photo credit: weaverphoto Chalk the Walk 2017 via photopin (license)

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About me: I am Munguongeyo Ivan, from Kampala, Uganda. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Development Studies from Makerere University and currently am pursuing Master’s Degree in Rural Development at the same University. My aim is to be a lecturer in the development studies discipline. I also have wide knowledge in serving local communities and specifically working with NGOs to improve on the welfare of the rural poor. I am currently a volunteer with an NGO called Hands of Love Foundation.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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