24 June, 2021In a case that will embolden trade unions' campaign for the ratification of ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the world of work, the Malawian High Court recently ruled in favour of compensation for sexual harassment and gender based violence at work.
Tamara Kabowa was sexually harassed by her general foreperson, Joaquim Carvalho, successfully sued her employer, Mota Engil Engenharia Construcao Africa, for damages. The court heard that Carvalho forcefully caressed Kabowa and attempted to undress her using a “a six-gear knife to rip the trousers apart.” Carvalho resigned and left Malawi before the case was heard in court.
The court ruled that Kabowa should be compensated by her employer, Mota Engil, the defendant in the case, for “aggravated and exemplary damages for the injury to her dignity as a woman, emotional and psychological trauma among others as a result of the negligent failure of the defendant to curb her sexual abuse at the hands of one of its officers who was her senior.”
Further, the court ruled that Mota Engil “breached its duty as employer under section 13 of the Occupational Safety and Health and Welfare Act to ensure a safe workplace.”
IndustriALL affiliates in Malawi welcome the firm approach that the courts are taking to combat sexual and gender-based violence and are involved in campaigns for the ratification of C190 under the Malawi Decent Work Programme II. Affiliates are also involved in campaigns as members of the Malawi Congress of Trade Union and with civil society organizations on gender mainstreaming and gender equality. The IndustriALL affiliates are the Building, Construction, Civil Engineering and Allied Workers union (BCCEAWU), Chemical Energy, Mining and Allied Workers Union (CEMAWU), Commercial, Industrial and Allied Workers Union (CIAWU) Escom Staff Union (ESU) and Textile, Garment, Leather and Security Services Workers (TGLSSWU).
“We welcome recent judgements in which courts are giving stiffer sentences and penalties for perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence at work,”
says William Mnyamula, ESU general Secretary.
Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa says:
“We salute women who are standing up against sexual harassment at the workplace. The employer has a duty to protect women workers and to ensure their safety. The ratification of Convention 190 by Malawi becomes the necessary next step considering that the courts are supportive.”
In Sub Saharan Africa, Namibia and Somalia have ratified the convention while other countries are at various consultative stages towards ratification.