Cape Verde Law Firm | Carla Monteiro & Associados - Sexual harassment in the workplace


Saturday, 06 Jun 2020

Sexual harassment in the workplace

What characterizes sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is all sexual behavior, in verbal, non-verbal or physical form, abusing the authority conferred on him  by his duties, with the objective of obtaining favors or benefits of a sexual nature, disturbing or embarrassing the target person, affecting your dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or destabilizing environment.

Characteristics of sexual harassment are the need to demonstrate the hierarchical superiority of the person who harasses with the promise of different treatment in case of acceptance of the harassment or with concrete actions of reprisal in case of refusal.

Some common examples of sexual harassment are invitations to go to places unrelated to work, bold comments about beauty and / or physical endowments, unwanted touches, viewing or sending sexual / pornographic photos and videos, sexual solicitation and embarrassing questions about the subordinate’s personal life.

What does our legislation provide for sexual harassment?

In Cape Verdean legislation, sexual harassment was classified as a crime with the approval of the Penal Code of 2004, placing it in the category of crimes against sexual freedom and self-determination.

The Labor Code of 2007, in the chapter of labor offenses, provides that the employer or any other person who, having authority, influence or moral dominance over a worker, sexually harasses him, making hiring dependent, contract renewal, promotion or acquisition of privileges, as well as scholarships, grants or other benefits, obtaining sexual favors for him or for third parties, is punished with a fine of up to two years of the minimum wage of the civil service.

However, it is noted that the Labor Code provides for harassment as an offense, punishable by a fine, however, the law that approved the crime of Gender Based Violence – VBG (Law No. 84 / VII / 11, of 10.01), came to reinforce the predicted criminality of the Penal Code and detail the figure of harassment in the workplace by providing that whoever, having authority or influence over others and makes them dependent, namely, hiring, staying on the job, renewing the contract, promoting or acquiring any other privileges, as well as scholarships, subsidies or other relevant benefits for you or those who depend on it, of obtaining sexual favors for yourself or for a third party, you will be punished with imprisonment up to 1 year or with a fine of 100 to 250 days.

Is physical contact necessary to consider sexual harassment?

There is no need for physical contact to characterize sexual harassment. Expressions, comments, indirect messages, messages, e-mails, among others, can also be characterized as sexual harassment in the workplace.

Can a single act be considered sexual harassment?

Yes. The law does not provide that the aggressor’s conduct should be repeated, that is, that he behaves insistently, in this sense, a single act can be characterized as harassment.

Does sexual harassment have to be in the workplace?

Not necessarily, it is important for the victim to know that sexual harassment can occur even outside the workplace, however, it assumes that the harasser has authority or influence over the victim conferred by his duties.

I am experiencing sexual harassment at work, what should I do?

The first thing the victim must do is to repudiate the aggressor’s act, trying to make him stop his behavior immediately.

It is important that there is no acceptance from the victim, remember that sexual harassment is a crime, so victims should be aware that, in addition to repudiating, they can and should report to the competent authorities any and all acts that characterize harassment.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the victim is dependent on work for his livelihood and ends up giving in to the sexual favors of the harasser, however, it is worth noting that, even if the harasser did not achieve his sexual intentions due to the victim’s refusal, such circumstance does not de-characterize the crime sexual harassment, that is, the refusal of the victim does not make the conduct of the aggressor lawful, continues to fill the legal type of crime. Therefore, you should resort to judicial bodies (Prosecutor or Police Authorities and General Labor Inspectorate) to report the situation.

Is harassment typical of male behavior?

In an era when both gender equality is debated with a view to equal opportunities for participation, recognition and appreciation of women and men, in all areas of society, whether political, economic, labor, personal and / or familiar,  why not demystify the existing taboo with regard to sexual harassment at work, namely, where the harassed person is a male worker.

The answer to this question is no, harassment is not a typical male behavior, men also experience sexual harassment, although it happens in a much smaller and disproportionate number.

Harassment can come from both men and women, demonstrating that the present issue should not be faced only from the perspective of men in the role of aggressor.

So one should not stereotype, create homogeneous groups defining women as victims and men as aggressors, even because, second study by the ILO – International Labor Organization, published on January 13, 2020, in Cape Verde, parity has already been achieved, with 51% of workers with qualified occupations being women and 48% of managerial positions held by women.

It is very rare for men to assume themselves as victims and it is not because they are not, in Cape Verdean culture, “man who is a man” cannot be a victim, he does not complain and if he does he is probably ridiculed.

Thus, it is very difficult to estimate how many men could also be victims of harassment. Many will not even recognize themselves as such, and even if they do, they prefer to remain silent in the face of fear of the judgment of society where the construction of masculinity rests on demonstrating at all times this extrapolated virility.

The chain of silent victims favors the perpetuation of the predatory behavior of the harasser, therefore, do not be intimidated, REPORT IT.

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