The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has constituted a committee of senior women to investigate claims of sexual harassment leveled against male MPs. The allegations were made by political assistants to the Members of Parliament.
The move follows a complaint Kadaga received from a delegation of women activists led by the National Female Youth MP, Anna Adeke Ebaju, on May 22. The matter came up after members of the Uganda Parliamentarians Personal and Research Assistants Association presented a petition to Kadaga over poor working conditions and remuneration.
Festo Kajura, the interim chairperson of the association, which has over 150 members, said sexual harassment targeting female research assistants was real. Another member of the association, Diana Bakaire, said most of the ladies employed by legislators were being forced into sexual intercourse in order to keep their jobs.
She said several of them had already given in so as to keep their jobs. She requested the Speaker to intervene in the matter. Many of the victims, Bakaire said, were girls from universities and secondary schools but could not speak due to fear.
Until their recent meeting with the Speaker, disturbing sexual harassment stories had only remained whispers within the corridors of Parliament. Many of the victims we spoke to do not know where to turn to if they have a complaint about harassment in Parliament.
We have also learned that sexual harassment is not only confined to political assistants but also cleaners, tea girls and food vendors at Parliament. Journalists have not been spared either, according to sources. Chris Obore, the director of communication in Parliament, said the matter was not raised by the staff of Parliament but personal assistants of MPs.
He said these were persons identified and employed by individual MPs. “The staff of Parliament has not raised such complaints because parliamentary service has robust regulations against harassment and resolution mechanisms for such cases,” Obore said.
He added that Parliament had not recorded what was raised by MPs’ personal assistants to the Speaker before. “Our human resource department implements staff regulations keenly, hence no such cases among parliamentary staff are recorded because all those who work at Parliament know the consequences,” Obore said.
He said the committee that had been set up by the Speaker would start its hearings as soon as they get their terms of reference