Some staff of the African Union Commission sexually harass short-term staff, youth volunteers and interns looking for jobs, an internal investigation has found.
The report, according to the BBC, revealed that sexual harassment is a major problem for women who work at the African Union Commission (AUC) and those responsible for the harassment “position themselves as ‘gate-keepers’ and ‘king-makers’”, it added.
BBC reports that following an anonymous letter sent to the AUC Chairperson, Moussa Faki, alerting him of the abuse, a special committee was formed.
The team found 44 cases of alleged sexual harassment and that young women were being “exploited for sex in exchange for jobs”.
Though the report was not able to name any of the alleged perpetrators, it was gathered that staff behind the harassment made “believable promises to young women that they will be offered contracts.”
Experts say people are often reluctant to report sexual harassment because they fear they will not be taken seriously, be branded a complainer, get colleagues fired or lose their own jobs.
The inquiry which was launched in May invited all staff members who had a complaint for a confidential interview. The respondents said they could not report the harassment as it might be unfavourable to them since the AUC does not have a sexual harassment policy.
The team also found incidents of bribery, corruption, bullying, discrimination and intimidation.
The inquiry was established after it reported on a petition signed by 37 female members of AU staff complaining about sexual harassment at the commission, South Africa’s Mail & Guardian paper says
The Commission of the African Union acts as the executive/administrative branch or secretariat of the AU. It has its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The union said that given the findings and serious allegations, it would establish “a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that protects the victims and takes the strongest punitive measures against any perpetrator.
A statement later revealed an internal committee to look into all the reported cases and make recommendations would be formed by Mr Faki.
This also generated a mixed reaction on social media.
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