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Women face victimisation at govt offices

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WOMEN have complained of harassment at some government offices, particularly along Fourth Street, where those wearing tight trousers, sleeveless tops or miniskirts are denied entry into the buildings.

BY MUNESU NYAKUDYA

Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association spokesperson, Daisy Zambuko told NewsDay Weekender this week that she was once harassed at Mukwati Building over the length of her skirt and had also witnessed several other women facing similar treatment at other government office blocks.

“In short, security officers at the entrance refuse entry into the building for women wearing short sleeved blouses or dresses,” she said.

“They will also assess if your trousers, even if it’s formal, to see if it’s too tight and then decide if you can get in or not. They are also offering clothes to women who they perceive to be showing off their shoulders or armpits.”

Zambuko said the victimisation was only targeted at black women.

She said there was a circular stamped by the Civil Service Commission stating that sleeveless tops and dresses, tops that have low necklines, tight-fitting trousers, jeans, see-through garments and miniskirts were unacceptable.

“There are no specifications in their circular on how long an acceptable sleeve, skirt or blouse is. Vents on skirts are also scrutinised. I was personally questioned over the length of the vent on my skirt,” Zambuko said.

“I think our rights are being trampled upon as women in Zimbabwe, and this kind of torture being instituted on us as women has no legal backing. A policy in the Civil Service Commission cannot be used to govern the dressing of all women in Zimbabwe.

This circular from the Civil Service Commission is to govern the behaviour of their civil servants only, not the rest of Zimbabwe.”

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs chairperson Biata Nyamupinga said this was the worst form of discrimination against women she had ever heard of.

“This has not yet come to my attention, but if it is happening, it is the worst discrimination against women ever,” she said.
“Right now, it’s summer and it’s hot. People have to dress comfortably. I really wonder why people would want to associate dressing with such bad ideas.”

Women Affairs minister Nyasha Chikwinya and her Public Service counterpart Prisca Mupfumira were not reachable on their phones.

The new strict dress code for civil servants was introduced on March 15 this year, citing deterioration of dress standards in the public service.

“The Public Service Commission has noted with concern the deteriorating standard of dress by members of the public service and has directed that the following standards of dress be maintained by members during the course of their duties in order to uphold the dignity and formality expected of them,” the circular read.

“Despite the complexity of women’s fashions, women should have a correspondingly high standard of dress . . . The following items are not acceptable when reporting for work: sleeveless tops, sleeveless dresses, strapped dresses or blouses, tops that have low necklines, tight-fitting trousers, jeans, see-through garments and miniskirts.”

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