The Government is planning to deploy over 1,000 sexual harassment focal point persons (SHFPP) in all its hospitals this financial year.
“They will receive and handle complaints of sexualharassment against health workers in all government hospitals,” Dr CharlesOlaro, the director clinical service at the Ministry of Health, said yesterday.
He was interfacing with MPs on the Parliament select committee investigating allegations of sexual violence in schools and institutions of learning. The committee, chaired by Gomba West MP Robinah Rwakoojo, has visited schools and higher institutions of learning investigating allegations of sexual violence.
The committee is apparently receiving views of other institutions on the vice. Olaro said the deployment will start from health centre II, III and IVs and also spread to the 139 general hospitals, 14 regional referral hospitals, and the two national referral hospitals of Mulago and Butabika.
Olaro said the deployment follows a study carried out last year by the health ministry, which revealed that three out of 10 health workers and support staff have ever experienced sexual harassment mainly from their supervisors in government hospitals. Olaro was accompanied by Dr Charles Mugisha, the in charge of gender and humanity at the ministry.
“The study revealed that sexual harassment starts duringrecruitment of health workers, mainly perpetrated by men in position of powerin recruiting positions. This behaviour continues in the workplace, where somesupervisors offer unjustified incentives in exchange for sex,” Olaro said.
He said sexual harassment affects mainly health workers, support staff volunteers including Village Health Teams (VHTs), students on internship programmes, in both subordinate and management positions or at peer to peer levels.
How it works
Mugisha said an affected complainant may report directly to the SHFPP or use another person or staff to report the case, but the information will be confidential.
Mugisha added that SHFPP would provide counselling services, guidance and inform the complainants of the investigations, summoning the witnesses and reporting about their findings. However, the Masaka Municipality MP, Mary Kabanda, said the scheme may not work because SHFPP comprises fellow workmates who may be seen as spies at the workplace. Kabanda proposed that the Government copies from Iceland where the government established a centre for victims of sexual harassment to report their cases freely.
Kabanda said: “Thecentre is equipped with professionals including counsellors, medical doctors,who do not reveal their identities. However, this has helped the Police totrace and arrest the perpetrators of sexual violence.”
Asked on criteria andqualifications of the personnel and deployment, Mugisha said this is voluntarywork, but the Government has embarked on training all its support staff andhealth workers on the importance of recruiting SHFPP.