Africa

African Union hit by sexual harassment claims

Sexual harassment graphic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The AUC chairperson formed a special team to investigate sexual harassment claims after he received an anonymous letter alerting him of the abuse

Sexual harassment is a major problem for women who work at the African Union Commission (AUC), an internal investigation has found.

Most of the victims are short-term staff, youth volunteers and interns looking for jobs, the report said.

Those responsible "position themselves as 'gate-keepers' and 'king-makers'", it added.

The inquiry was launched in May and all staff members who had a complaint were invited for a confidential interview.

The special committee was formed by the AUC Chairperson, Moussa Faki, after an anonymous letter alerted him to the abuse.

The team found 44 cases of alleged sexual harassment and that young women were being "exploited for sex in exchange for jobs".

The report did not name any of the alleged perpetrators.

Staff behind the harassment made "believable promises to young women that they will be offered contracts," the report said.

Interviewees said reporting incidents of sexual harassment was often counterproductive as there was no process internally to do so because the AUC does not have a sexual harassment policy.

The team also found incidents of bribery, corruption, bullying, discrimination and intimidation.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Faki says a policy on sexual harassment at work will be set up

South Africa's Mail & Guardian paper says the inquiry was established after it reported on a petition signed by 37 female members of AU staff complaining about sexual harassment at the commission.

The AU Commission, which has its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, said that given the findings and serious allegations, it would establish "a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that protects the victims and takes the strongest punitive measures against any perpetrator".

Mr Faki would also form an internal committee to look into all the reported cases and make recommendations, a statement said.

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