Women in Bulawayo have called for the enforcement of law that criminalise sexual harassment saying the scourge is now prevalent in society.
This came out of public hearing on sexual harassment and the law held jointly by the parliamentary portfolio committees on public service, Labour and social welfare and women affairs, gender, community and enterprises development.
The public hearings are a response to Emthonjeni women’s forum petition to parliament calling for the amendment of the amendment of the sexual harassment act.
The chairperson of the portfolio committee on public service, labour and social welfare, Emma Huni Ncube said the joint committees wanted to assess the prevalence of sexual harassment amongst women.
Speaking during the meeting, a participant Nobubele Sihlola said women want sexual harassment to be criminalised.
“We want the sexual rights act to be amended in the sense that the act of sexual harassment should be criminalized,” said Sihlola.
She said victims should be protected including whistle blowers, “people are scared to report as they fear what will happen to them. It should be clearly stated how the victims and people who witnessed this are protected.”
Another participant, Emaculate Chingwere also added that sexual harassment can actually destroy women’s careers.
“Sexual harassment is very prevalent and it is everywhere, we need the amendment of the labor act, it is very vague it’s just one line spelling out what sexual harassment is but sexual harassment has the potential to cut someone’s career in half, someone can leave work because of being harassed, so we need more in the labour act when it comes to sexual harassment,” said Chingwere.
She also said there is a need to train police officers on sexual harassment.
“We also need the labour act to also have a dispute resolution mechanism, right now most places the cases are either going unreported or unresolved because there are no clear dispute resolution mechanisms. When you go to the police the cases are being changed to assault but it’s not assault its sexual harassment and it’s also gender based violence so it should be treated as such,” she said.
“We also need a national policy on violence and harassment not just in the workplace.We also need our police to be trained on how to handle such cases, it’s pathetic when you go to a police station and you have been violated or sexually harassed, it will turn around to be like you are the one who is wrong.”
Another participant, Panashe Shakata said there is a need to start educating children a school level about sexual harassment.
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology