Following a recent case in which a member of staff at Makerere University allegedly raped a student, the School of Women and Gender Studies in collaboration with the Women’s Movement has embarked on a campaign to stop sexual harassment at the University. The first of such campaigns was a students’ symposium held at the School premises on 13th April, 2016. It was moderated by the Dean, Assoc. Prof. Josephine Ahikire and the Undergraduate Coordinator, Dr Peace Musimenta. It was attended by among others, the former Executive Director of Uganda Investment Authority, Dr Maggie Kigozi and the Acting Director, Gender Mainstreaming, Ms Frances Nyachwo.
Organized under the theme; “Making Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment at Makerere University a Reality: A Sane Environment is a Right for All”, students from various Schools in the University shared experiences of sexual abuse at Campus. They said many students are subjected to various forms of sexual abuse but very few come out to report for fear of being embarrassed and punished by the perpetrators. Student leaders advised their colleagues to always be principled, avoid material gains and conduct themselves appropriately to avoid any temptations that can result into sexual harassment. The leaders also sensitized students on the process of protecting evidence and reporting rape.
Dr Ahikire condemned what she termed as “over sexualization of the learning environment” saying sexual harassment compromises the University’s integrity and its tradition of intellectual freedom. “Higher education environment must be the most sane,” she said urging students to rise against sextortion.
She called for the operationalization of the Sexual Harassment Policy to curb the vice. “The University has a policy against sexual harassment but it remains on the shelves. Its implementation depends on the cases reported but many students do not report for fear of being victimized. It is time for students to come out and fight for their rights,” she said. The policy sets out to establish an institutional framework that encourages victims of sexual harassment to exercise their rights, maintain their dignity and refuse to submit to any pressures.
Dr Ahikire noted that the recent case of rape was just a tip of the iceberg but had set precedent for fighting sexual harassment at the University. She said lecturers have a responsibility to protect students and should not be seen to engage in any form of sexual harassment.
She informed participants that the School together with the Directorate of Gender Mainstreaming would launch a University-wide study to document all forms of sexual harassment for appropriate action.
Dr Musimenta said students have the power to bring back sanity at the University. “Like the crime preventers, students can form a group of rape preventers to fight sexual harassment,” she advised.
The Acting Director Gender Mainstreaming, Ms Nyachwo, briefed participants on the Sexual Harassment Policy of the University.
Dr Maggie Kigozi cautioned lecturers against taking advantage of students saying the relationship between the two should be restricted to academics. She urged students to be principled to avoid being sexually exploited. Dr Kigozi expressed commitment to support the School of Women and Gender Studies in the fight against sexual harassment.
See Sexual Harassment Policy below