The hashtag #MeToo has been trending globally following reports of sexual harassment occurring mainly against female celebrities by prominent men in Hollywood. The hashtag has brought to light the prevalence of sexual harassment not only in the entertainment industry, but also in everyday situations experienced by women from all over the world. In Africa, sexual harassment perpetrated by men against women is rampant yet it is considered a common and normal occurrence. Consequently, women are expected to not complain against it; if and when they do, they are confronted with the rebuttal that that is just the way men are and it should not be held against them.
Nollywood Sexual Harassment Cases
In Nigerian Nollywood, several actresses have highlighted their ordeal in the acting industry. Nollywood stars like Joke Silva, Blessing Egbe, and Juliet Patrick Odigwe recently opened up about their sexual harassment experiences. However, given that victims of such harassment are vilified when they speak out and report such cases, they did not give out the names of the perpetrators. Most victims of sexual harassment fear they will lose their jobs and be shunned in the industry. Emeka Ike, however, once named several producers whom he accused of asking for sexual favors from budding actresses before giving them roles in their movies. Other successful actresses, such as Eeefy Ike have also shared their own experiences and discussed how women in the industry are pressured to not report harassment if they hope to advance their careers.
Sexual Harassment in Other Parts of Africa
Sexual harassment is, however, not confined to Nigeria alone. Ghanaian filmmaker Shirley Frimpong-Manso also decried the prejudice against her whenever she went to pitch any of her scripts to male producers. Instead of looking at her work, producers would always look at the fact that she was a woman first. Consequently, she always received requests for sexual favors. In South Africa, actresses Nokuthula Ledwaba, Katlego Danke and Crystal-Donna Roberts have also come out and detailed their own experiences of sexual harassment. In Kenya, the experience of sexual harassment is all too common among most women, often presenting itself as strenuous cultural facet.
What to Do in Case of Sexual Harassment
If you encounter sexual harassment, immediately ask the perpetrator to stop harassing you. You should also report such incidences, whether at or away from work, to the relevant authorities. At work, you can file a complaint with the HR department for action to be taken against the perpetrator. If no action is taken, you can file a report with the police. Reporting such incidences kickstarts legal action against perpetrators. Additionally, try to find other victims and witnesses to support your case. If you are afraid of backlash for speaking out, get in touch with women’s organizations dealing with such matters for additional support.