According to experts, female students of Makerere University still feel powerless to report lecturers who sexually harass them due to lack of complete trust in the policy.
One of these experts at Makerere University is Dr Josephine Ahikire, an associate professor of Gender Studies and the Acting Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) who believes that the victims of sexual harassment have not yet embraced the available mechanisms to report their tormentors.
Professor Ahikire also believes that affected students now prefer to remain silent for fear of victimization.
It should be recalled that the Policy and Regulations against Sexual Harassment and the Safer Universities Project was launched in August 2019 which provides for 100 members of the Vice Chancellor’s standing roster to investigate sexual harassment cases at the Ivory Tower.
While speaking on behalf of students, Judith Nalukwago, a third-year student of Dental Surgery who also doubles as the Vice Guild President of Makerere University admitted that the revised policy is good but it doesn’t address the power relations, which tend to be the main enabling factor in the vice.
Nalukwago added that lecturers still hold a lot of power to determine to fate of a student’s academic excellence (exam results) adding that if a student rejects sexual advances from lecturers, they are likely to fail their papers even if they were supposed to pass.
In her suggestion, sexually harassed students should be marked by external examiners and their lecturers should be switched. Nalukwago believes that this would not only increase trust in the process but also be ideal in protecting against the victimization of the affected students.
In 2019, the Parliament directed the Committee on Education and Sports to investigate allegations of sexual harassment during the fees must fall strike where a number of girls claimed to have been sexually harassed by security personnel.
In its report filed in December, the committee noted that their efforts to identify the abused students were futile due to the victims’ unwillingness to come out, something that left no evidence of the claims.
The Parliamentary Committee also revealed that trust and confidentiality issues were tested during their probe period. Apparently, they established that there was a wide gap between management and students arising out of bad relations which limit the chances of victims to come out.