The Women Academy for Leadership and Academy for Excellence (WALPE) is pushing for a stand-alone sexual harassment act to be passed into law in order to protect women and girls from sexual predators in the workplace.
By Patricia Mashiri
The said law will have a stipulated penalty for offenders unlike under the current scenario whereby sexual harassment is covered by the Labour Act (28.1) and the criminal law codification and reform Act (9.23) where the WALPE argues that they are inadequate to protect women.
Speaking during a meeting on the progress on the enactment of the Sexual Harassment Act meeting with the Parliamentarians, Tatenda Madziro , WALPE Programs Manager said the impact of sexual harassment on the participation of women in leadership positions and developmental processes have resulted in women shunning away from politics.
The greater population of sexual harassment victims is the women and girls who find themselves on the receiving end of various forms of violence with little to no preview at law because of lack of legislation that addresses how much matters ought to be handled and penalties.
“Therefore, a sexual harassment bill will protect women political activists and this will increase the number of participation in leadership processes. It will automatically increase women in leadership and decision making processes and their participation in the country’s development processes,” Madziro said.
She added that with adequate lobbying, the bill will protect female University students from harassment from lecturers, women and girls from commuter omnibus drivers and conductors’ harassment and name calling. It will protect them at markets place and churches as well as workplaces.
Meanwhile, Honourable Sibonile Nyamudeza, Chipinge West Member of Parliament said the enactment of the Act was long overdue as the stories of women and girls sexual harassment have been on the increase.
“We do not have a law enforced to deter perpetrators from such acts therefore our women and girls remain in the same predicament. If we have a penalty know by everyone it could save a lot of women.
“We need funding to create programs that educate children and raise awareness. They need to know what sexual harassment is, how to act when one encounters it. At the same time, men are the perpetrators of this violence, we need to engage them so that they will stop this,” Honourable Nyamudedza said.
The current Labour Act which speaks of sexual harassment only speaks to sexual harassment at the workplace and the employer can be liable for civil remedies only. It is silent about the correctional provisions which should also include imprisonment of wrong doers or perpetrators.
Honourable Norman Marikisi, Member of Parliament Mt Darwin East noted that cultural harmful practices need to be addressed as some of them lead to sexual harassment.
“Practices like chiramu should be banned as they violate rights of the person at the receiving end. This needs to be addressed in public spaces so that people know how bad it is. We need to address these forms of violence starting from the grassroots where village heads, herd man and the chiefs are there to talk to their people,” Honourable Marikisi said.
The Act will also protect women leaders,aspiring leaders and political activists from the perpetrators of sexual harassment as Zimbabwe is approaching elections next year.