When a senior state attorney, Samantha Mwesigye, recently broke her silence about allegedly being harassed sexually by her male supervisor for decades, social media was awash with a whirlwind of reactions and judgment.
Shockingly, for every twenty comments I managed to see, only one or two judges seemed to believe that Mwesigye could be making genuine allegations and deserves to have her concerns and allegations listened to by a competent panel.
A majority of those who have judged Mwesigye’s case to be unworthy of attention have given their justifications as thus: “She has been enjoying things for too long and she is now complaining because she is not getting the benefits anymore; How come she had kept quiet all along?
While it is the job of the accuser to prove her allegations beyond reasonable doubt, my hope is that Mwesigye is listened to objectively by the responsible committee. If her allegations hold grain of truth, the perpetrator ought to face the consequences - the very minimum of which should be termination of his duties as deputy solicitor general.
Conversely, if Mwesigye is proved to be making false allegations with the intent to assassinate the character of her boss, she must be punished accordingly so as to deter more people from making a mockery of a vice/crime that carries detrimental political, economic and social consequences to the accused.
Meanwhile, we shall use Mwesigye’s predicament to debunk some of the common and flawed premises that tend to influence the social media judges, court judges, the police and the general public to arbitrarily dismiss sexual harassment allegations by women.
We live in a society that generally socializes men to have some kind of entitlement to women’s bodies and that for a woman to say NO to any sexual advances from a man, she is expected to explain why she says No.
It is for the same reason that right from childhood, we teach girls to be ashamed of being female by coercing them to always present themselves in such a way that they avoid the possibility of ‘tempting’ men.
This practice reinforces the idea that by being born female, women are already guilty of something. They, therefore, grow up to silence themselves with very little to no expectation of saying what they truly think.
When Kabarole Woman legislator Sylvia Rwabwogo sued a college student from whom she received several text messages with sexual nuances, she became a laughing stalk to most, and was heavily criticized for acting childishly and heartless for causing the jailing of “an innocent young man.”
It is such social backlash that causes most women to grow up turning pretense into a form of art whenever faced with unwanted sexual advances.
Secondly, we live in a society that teaches us that to expect the safety of a girl being alone in a room with boys equates to placing butter near a source of high heat without expecting the butter to melt.
Hence, we teach girls how to protect themselves from sexual harassment but very rarely teach boys how to stop sexually harassing girls. Yet, with a little bit of training, even though dogs are known for their strong liking of meat, some dogs will only eat meat served by a particular person, cooked in a particular way, served on a particular plate and placed in a specific location at a particular time.
We all probably know of that particular parent/guardian who cannot let their daughter stay alone with any man, including the father of the girl. That animals can be taught how to restrain their appetites but male humans cannot calls for a deeper introspection.
Suddenly, it is due to that patriarchal mentality that several women are sexually harassed. But due to the default expectation of saving the image of the man, few cases are reported and even the few that are reported rarely get public attention. While we unanimously agree that sexual harassment is wrong, we are quick to ignore the culprit and opt to trivialize the circumstances under which one was sexually harassed.
That is why most covert forms of sexual harassment such as unwanted sexual innuendo, propositions, sexual attention, suggestive comments/gestures, inappropriate humor, derogatory language, sexual based insults/threats, unwelcome written or electronic communications of sexual nature and sexually charged name-calling only attract laughter and ridicule when reported to some authorities as allegations of sexual harassment.
We must acknowledge that while boys and girls are different, socialization exaggerates certain differences. If one lives in a society that devalues women, they are likely to disrespect women. As Fredrick Douglas once noted, “It is easier to build strong [upright] children than to repair broken men. [and women]
The writer is a social worker in Alberta -Canada.