SEXUAL HARASSMENT THRIVING IN PNG WORK PLACES

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By Winis Map

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 10, 2000 - The Independent/PINA Nius Online)---Sexual harassment in any form or manner, is a crime. However, it is a subject many people, especially women in Papua New Guinea, do not feel comfortable talking about.

Some women in PNG have experienced work place sexual harassment but have kept quiet about it for various reasons.

According to the President of the National Council of Women (NCW), Susan Setae, sexual harassment cases are common and her office has received complaints. She said the NCW, however, has not addressed the issue fully and is trying to work with the Labor Department and the International Labor Organization (ILO) in the hope of assisting the victims.

"Sexual harassment is a concern for the council . . . When we talk about violence this is one example of violence against women," Mrs. Setae said.

She said it is unacceptable for men to sexually harass women at work. She said women must also stand their grounds and reject sexual advances from their bosses or work mates.

Most of the women who have been sexually harassed at work tend to submit to the men’s sexual advances because they want to keep their job or want a promotion. In most cases the perpetrators are male supervisors or managers. And women who have objected to sexual favors sometimes have lost their jobs or not been promoted.

"Women must not accept sexual advances in exchange for jobs.

"In the work place women must be recognized on their merits and not be used as objects for sexual advances for employment and promotion," Mrs. Setae said.

She said men must not treat women as people without status. She said NCW really condemns sexual harassment of women and appeals to men to respect their female colleagues.

One obvious reason for silence is the fear of repercussions from the male perpetrators, which include physical violence and employment termination, according to investigations by The Independent.

Employment security has been the major factor preventing women from coming forward to voice their concerns.

Another reason is associated with the lack of awareness or the knowledge thereof of laws governing the inappropriate behavior of men towards women.

In 1992 a female employee at one company refused to be subjected to the sexual advances made to her by her superior. She was emotionally traumatized and did not return to work for three days, but when she returned the supervisor served her a termination notice.

She has since left and is now employed by a government department at Waigani. At this office she said she has witnessed women being employed or promoted not on their own merits but because of sexual favors they provide for their male supervisors.

And a stone’s throw away is another victim of sexual harassment. This lady, who works at another government department at Waigani, said she encountered harassment but refused sexual favors for her male colleagues.

She has worked with the same department for 11 years, and claims that she was never promoted or recommended for training for the last nine years until changes to the top management took effect about two years ago. Only then was she promoted and recommended for training.

A source from the Department of Labour and Employment who requested anonymity confirmed that his office has heard cases of such a nature but they could not proceed further because most of the complaints are raised after the employees are terminated. He said they normally advise the victims to seek legal redress in court.

He said some women know it’s wrong and know they are abused but refuse to speak out because of fear.

He said it is best for women to get employed or promoted on merit and not on sexual favors.

The Director of Women’s Affairs at the Department of Home Affairs, Leonie Rakanangu, said one of the difficulties in dealing with the sexual harassment issue results from PNG not having anti-discrimination laws.

However, she said in the public service there are avenues available like the Public Services Commission, Department of Personnel Management and the Ombudsman Commission for government employees to lodge their complaints.

She said PNG is a signatory to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Women but they are not in the position to fight for rights because there is no local mechanism in place.

For additional reports from The Independent, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Independent (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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is there any laws in place in Papua New Guinea that protect employees in both private and public sector from bullying, harassment and discrimination?as read from above, only the public sector have the avenue to launch their complaints about bullying and harassment and discrimination.

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