Sexual harassment in the era of COVID-19 in Ghana: Is the law enough?

Bashiratu Kamal

Gender Expert, Ghana Trades Union

As the world continues to battle with the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus on economies and the lives of vulnerable workers, UN Women declared gender-based violence a shadow pandemic that is threatening the lives and existence of vulnerable groups—especially women and children. As disturbing reports about the upsurge in gender-based violence garnered attention from the world, there is silence on its perpetration in the workplace where women are especially vulnerable. Also, while there continues to be appreciable human and material resources available to address domestic violence in Ghana, not enough systems are in place to protect women workers against sexual harassment and other forms of violence in the workplace.

Several research findings and reports show the importance of developing responsive mechanisms on gender-based violence as part of the recovery and containment measures of the pandemic. However, there has been no research to ascertain the increase in the vulnerability of women workers to sexual harassment and GBV at workplaces.

Sexual harassment is a type of Occupational Safety and Health defined as a form of sex discrimination characterized by unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment.

The introduction of different work systems in dealing with the fallouts of the pandemic by employers including shift systems, rationing and work from home have left some victims with their abusers or harassers. In other instances, abusers and harassers in positions of power could manipulate to get victims in shifts that allow them to carry out their inhumane acts. With the absence of legislations and policies in several countries to deal with workplace violence and sexual harassment, workers remain at the mercy of their perpetrators and abusers who are mostly in positions of power, and Ghana is no exception.

Until the adoption of the new ILO Convention 190 on eliminating violence