Research highlights prevalence of sexual harassment in African newsrooms

New research reveals incidence of sexual harassment in the Nigerian, Kenyan and South African press.

Lindsey Blumell, Lecturer at City, University of London and Dinfin Mulupi, a PhD Student at the University of Maryland, have investigated newsroom sexism in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, finding that 57.5 percent of South African women, 38 percent of Nigerian women and 77.5 of Kenyan women have experienced sexual harassment in their respective countries’ newsrooms.

In an article on The Conversation, the pair say: “We set out to investigate newsroom sexism in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. We wanted to understand both the attitudes and the experiences of news professionals. The results showed a high prevalence of experiencing and witnessing sexual harassment in the news industry and that sexist attitudes were common. It was also clear that the response to the problem from organisations was low.”

Their research includes in-depth interviews, field observations, focus groups and a survey recently published in Feminist Media Studies. The survey asked news professionals in the three countries about their personal experiences with sexual harassment and measured the levels of sexism they had experienced

Specifically, the pair interviewed 136 news professionals in 2018, with 9 percent of respondents reportedly saying they had been sexually abused at least five times at their places of work, while 62.9 percent of the South Africa-based men said they had witnessed sexual harassment of women without reporting it.

“When we asked our participants about hostile sexism, men in all three countries expressed significantly higher levels of hostility than women. And women in our survey experienced sexual harassment four times more than men. In Kenya 40 percent of women said they had experienced it five times or more,” they write in the article.

Research participants said perpetrators ranged from fellow employees to superiors. Overall, the majority of participants said they had witnessed sexual harassment at least once, with 20 percent stating they had witnessed it multiple times.