An internal investigation at the African Union has revealed that women are often exploited sexually in exchange for jobs.
The report says most of the victims are female short-term employees, youth volunteers and female interns. Many of them are hoping to secure eventual job positions.
The internal investigation was sanctioned by the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki.
Faki ordered the probe after receiving a letter from an unknown person alerting him of such sexual harassment cases.
TheMail & Guardian’s in May reported that 37 female staff had signed a petition complaining about pervasive sexual harassment and gender discrimination within the commission.
Offenders are “king makers”
The investigative report said persons who are responsible for the sexual abuses considered themselves as ‘gate-keepers’ and ‘king-makers'”.
The investigative committee consisted of three women. It’s report said “ it is the finding of the Committee that incidents of sexual harassment exists in the Commission.
This is established by the almost unanimous confirmation of the prevalence of this occurrence by interviewees appearing before the Committee.”
During the investigative process, which started in May the panel found 44 cases of alleged sexual harassment.
In those instances young women were “exploited for sex in exchange for jobs”.
No sexual abuse policy
The report said “Evidence presented suggests that this form of harassment perpetrated by supervisors over female employees in their charge, especially, but not exclusively, during official missions outside the workstation.
The absence of a sexual exploitation and abuse policy compounds the adverse effects of this vice. The category of staff most vulnerable and exposed to this form of harassment are short-term staff, youth volunteers and interns.”
The report further said the instances of sexual exploitation is pervasive because “It would appear that the vulnerability of this category of staff is exploited on account of their insecurity of tenure.”
“Interviewees claim that these cases are not reported as this would be counter-productive to the victim, because there is no sexual harassment policy in the Commission, and therefore no dedicated, effective redress and protection mechanism available to victims or whistle-blowers. According to interviewees, the young women are exploited for sex in exchange for jobs,” the report noted.
The investigative team also found incidents of bribery, corruption, bullying, discrimination and intimidation.
The AU Commission, now intends establishing “a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that protects the victims and takes the strongest punitive measures against any perpetrator”.