“I challenge the notion that it is acceptable to describe women’s clothing as provocative, as this reinforces problematic attitudes about women’s responsibility for men’s sexual behavior. These beliefs and attitudes not only influence women’s daily lives but also shape how some individuals respond to incidents of sexual corruption and harassment”.
These statements and more were made during the HellenaNaMrafiki Twitter Space last Saturday, by Rose Reuben, the Executive Director of Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA), an NGO dedicated to raising awareness about violence through media and inspiring the community to speak out against such violence. During the dialogue, one listener shared her personal experience of being sexually harassed and asked about her clothing choices when reporting the incident, implying that her attire might be the cause of the harassment.
She expressed remorse to anyone who has experienced sexual harassment and acknowledged that it is a problem for those in positions of authority tasked with addressing such cases. However, she noted that the notion that provocative attire is the sole cause of such harassment is misguided. She explained that a woman can still be subjected to harassment even if she is fully covered and that men can also be victims of sexual harassment. She emphasized that the root cause of such harassment lies in the offender’s morals, rather than society’s perception of provocative attire.
Despite Dr Rose’s stance that clothing does not excuse or justify disrespectful behavior, she emphasized the importance of dressing appropriately for the occasion, especially when applying for a job. Wearing inappropriate attire may result in disqualification during the hiring process.
“I recommend that both men and women understand the importance of dressing appropriately for job interviews, avoiding outfits that would be more suited to a nightclub, casino, or swimming pool. There is a specific dress code for every occasion, and failing to adhere to it can not only lead to unwanted sexual advances but also jeopardize one’s chances of getting the job,” said Dr. Rose Reuben
During the same Twitter Space, several topics were covered, including TAMWA’s efforts to combat gender inequality. The organization conducted research in 2020-2021 to shed light on the issue of sexual corruption among journalists in major media houses in Dar es Salaam. According to Rose, the findings showed the prevalence of the issue, with 78% admitting its existence, 64% stating that they did not know where to report it, and some even quitting their jobs and switching to other broadcasting stations. Another study was then conducted, which revealed the low representation of women journalists compared to those who had studied journalism in universities. Rose noted that sexual corruption was one of the challenges contributing to this disparity.
Additionally, Dr. Rose acknowledged the ongoing challenge of addressing sexual corruption. Despite the fact that many victims are hesitant to speak up, TAMWA is making efforts to empower them to do so. As a result of these efforts, some people have become more open to sharing their stories
According to Dr. Rose, TAMWA collaborates with other coalitions, including a coalition against sexual corruption. On this platform, they discuss potential solutions and offer guidance for those who are seeking help. They also provide psychological support to help individuals overcome the traumatic experiences they may have faced.
As Dr Rose emphasized, the reality is that the PCCB has laws in place to address the problem of sexual corruption. Through research conducted both in the media and universities, the limitations of these laws have been acknowledged and efforts are underway to address them. Dr Rose expressed her optimism that, upon completion, these improved laws will be able to effectively secure the rights of all those who have been impacted by this challenge.