Ethiopian parliament passes law on sexual harassment

September 2, 2019

By Caroline Wahome

The Ethiopian parliament on July 5, 2019 approved a draft Labour Proclamation (Proclamation) to replace what has been in existence for 16 years also known as Labour Proclamation No. 377/2003. The revised law has introduced a rule to regulate workplace sexual harassment and sexual violence.

The National Federation of Farm, Plantation, Fishery and Agro Industry Trade Unions (NFFPFATU), Hivos implementing partner of the Women@Work Campaign in Ethiopia, was involved in discussions on the draft law on sexual harassment that has now come into effect.

“We had deliberations together with the overall union body, the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU), on what we proposed to be included in the sexual harassment law,” said Gebeyehu Adugna, President of NFFPFATU.

In the flower industry, where we operate, sexual harassment has for the longest time been generally accepted as okay by colleagues, workers and even management. They took it as something normal. The women accepted it – as a sign of love as long as there was no violence. We are glad this is now changing as the Federation has been holding sensitization training to both flower workers and their employers as to what encompasses sexual harassment,” added Adugna.

Gebeyehu Adugna, President National Federation of Farm, Plantation, Fishery and Agro Industry Trade Unions, during the interview

After NFFPFATU’s extensive discussions and lobbying work, the decision for inclusion of the proposed provisions was passed. The Proclamation has defined sexual harassment as “any act that is made to persuade or convince another through utterances, signs or any other manner, to submit for sexual favor without his/her consent.  Sexual violence includes any sexual harassment accompanied by force or any attempt thereof.” Further, employees that have suffered sexual harassment or sexual violence will be entitled to terminate their contracts without notice, and will also be eligible for severance payment and compensation. The law provides a higher amount of compensation payment for employees who are forced to terminate their contract, without notice, for reasons of sexual harassment and sexual violence. Forced termination of contracts by employees for reasons that are unlawful acts of the employer will entitle the employee to one month compensation payment whereas sexual harassment and sexual violence victims will be granted three months of compensation payment.

Women in Ethiopia, being the majority of workers in the horticulture sector, face problems in assertively having their rights protected when sexual harassment occurs. The absence of laws barring sexual harassment and violence at the workplace has also aided the laxity the issue has received for years. Hence, having a law that includes provisions unambiguously providing for sexual harassment is regarded as a step forward to attainment of the objectives of Women@Work Campaign in improving women working conditions at the workplace.