By all accounts in the days before Title VII, sexual harassment in the workplace was commonplace, overt and implicitly permissible. Women made up a much smaller percentage of employees, were barely represented in management positions or in positions of authority, and had little recourse if sexual favors were demanded or sexual advances made: submit or risk losing the job.
According to what appears to be a legitimate article out of Kenya entitled “Men Who Seduce Like Cavemen” published in SDE and written by Lydia Limbe, the workplace there appears to be similar to the American workplace of 50 years ago. While sexual harassment “has slowly but surely changed from the traditional overt forms, to covert ones,” nevertheless “there exists a thin line between what some men consider traditional cues of seduction and sexual harassment.”
The reporter writes that in Kenya:
“This harassment includes anything sexual that makes work environment uncomfortable. From male colleagues who gawk and whistle suggestively at ‘hot’ female colleagues as they pass by; women who dress provocatively; those blessed with ‘award-winning’ cleavages that are tempting enough to tear or strain a muscle in a man salivary gland leaving them exposed; unashamedly staring at a woman breasts; men who insist on being hugged or ambush women with unwelcome hugs and pecking their cheeks; male colleagues who dangerously reduce the social distance by leaning very close to female colleagues when talking to them to those who cheekily prolong handshakes and twirl them (hands) suggestively while at it.”
The reporter wrote of various women, each of whom was victimized in the workplace. Lillian had a co-worker who she could “easily confuse for a monk who had just taken a day off from a monastery,” but one day he suddenly “grabbed me, rubbed himself against me, making funny grunting noises. I pushed him away with all my might.”
Miriam, a recent college graduate, had this to say about male colleagues: “Every morning when I go to work, some of them insist on a hug as a greeting. Usually these hugs are naughty because I get squeezed, making me feel uncomfortable at the forced intimacy in the full glare of the others. I’ve said no to them but they insist on having these hugs by force, some even taking me by surprise.”
“Women go through hell in most workplaces but they choose to ignore,” she said, because “complaints to other colleagues land on deaf ears,” and invite unnecessary attention and annoyance.
Irene “had to literally dodge one of her bosses” — “This particular guy came to the water dispenser and stood behind me. And when nobody was watching, he groped my bottom and made a silly remark. Sometimes he would come to my desk, and I would greet him out of politeness, and he would respond by saying something to the effect that he was not fine until the day I would agree to have a ‘gland to gland’ combat with him.”
There is much more, but you get the drift.
It is not clear from the article whether there are anti-discrimination laws in Kenya such as Title VII, where an employer may be held liable, but according to one lawyer, workplace sexual harassment is a crime under the Sexual Offence Act, subject to imprisonment and fines, that must be reported “to the relevant department” and if no action is taken reported to the police.
Back to the future in Kenya.