Posed pictures to illustrate sexual harasment.

Johannesbrug - There is an extremely high prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace in Limpopo. This is according to the study [email protected], which looked at gender-based violence in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

It found that more than half of the women interviewed in Limpopo reported sexual harassment in the workplace.

“They disclosed that a man either hinted or threatened that they would lose their job if they did not have sex with him, or they would have to have sex with him in order to get a job.

“The extremely high prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace in Limpopo warrants further research,” stated the report.

The problem is more prevalent in this province than in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal or the Western Cape.

The study is part of the SADC region’s efforts to halve gender- based violence by 2015, in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. Some of its findings were discussed this week as South Africa marks 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children.

The research was completed in four provinces (Limpopo, Gauteng, KZN and the Western Cape), four regions in Zambia, and in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Mauritius.

In South Africa, researchers spoke to more than 5 600 men and women. The study found that sexual harassment in Limpopo was starkly high compared with other provinces.

Only 5 percent of women in KZN and the Western Cape and 2.7 percent of women in the Western Cape experienced similar trends.

Comparing the figures with the rest of the region, in Lesotho, 63 percent of women said they experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime, while only 8 percent of women in Zimbabwe had been sexually harassed in the workplace.

In Botswana, almost a quarter – or 23 percent – of all the women polled said they had been sexually harassed at school, work, on public transport or while consulting traditional healers. The study also gauged perceptions towards gender-based violence and stereotypes.

It found that men who suffered violence, abuse or neglect in their childhood were more prone to be violent to their partners in their adult life.

Kubi Rama, deputy chief executive with gender equality pressure group Genderlinks, said that even though it was not a new finding, as the trend had been identified in the past, it was important to establish a strategy to deal with it, which had not been done.

“The root cause of adults perpetrating violence is because they experienced violence as a child. It tells us that we need a strategy to change gender relations at childhood level.”

But she said the study showed that there were not only differences in the nature of violence across the countries but also between the provinces.

In the Western Cape, for example, much of the violence was gang and drug-related, explained Rama.

Interestingly, in Gauteng and KZN, it was men who were more willing to admit that they perpetrated violence against women, rather than women themselves.

There were also more women and men who agreed that a woman should obey her husband compared with those who disagreed with the idea.

But among those who agreed, more men agreed with the statement than women, showing that women were slightly more progressive than men.

Women in the urban centres were more progressive than Limpopo and KZN, which are mainly rural.

In Lesotho, 86 percent of women suffered gender-based violence.

But only 3 percent reported the matter to police and 2 percent reported it to medical health providers.

“Violence continues to be a private matter and social and institutional factors are hindering women from reporting it,” stated the report.

Rama said the study showed that there were different indicators of gender violence across the country.

In all the studies, emotional violence featured as the most common form of abuse reported by women and disclosed by men.

“Ironically, despite being the highest, police statistics do not capture emotional violence,” stated the report. “The highest proportion of violence is interpersonal violence within partnerships.

“This means we need to review the strategy in terms of how we get into people’s homes (to tackle this sort of violence),” said Rama.

She added that strategies that could be used to support women in instances of emotional violence and to prevent it from being perpetrated were not that readily available.

Sunday Independent