MDC Alliance female legislators have complained before the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda over sexual harassment in the House by Zanu PF legislators Tafanana Zhou (Mberengwa North) and John Paradza (Gutu West).
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Manicaland proportional representation MP, Lynette Karenyi, on Thursday raised a point of order as the leader of the MDC Alliance women’s assembly, complaining about the verbal abuse that she and another female MP Joanna Mamombe (Harare West) had been subjected to.
“I represent women out there and my presence here is encouraging other women to stand up and fight for our space, but I have realised that if I do not say this out, most of the women can’t stand up and speak,” Karenyi said.
“I have received reports from my fellow colleagues that they are also experiencing sexual harassment, and I strongly feel that there is a difference between heckling and sexual harassment, and I decided to stand up and say it out to encourage other women to stand and speak.”
She said gestures and utterances by Zhou and Paradza — who allegedly commented on female MPs’ body features — were tantamount to sexual harassment.
“As female MPs, we take such moves as disrespectful, because we are not sex objects, but we are legislators and we deserve respect,” Karenyi said.
When Karenyi was contributing to debate in the National Assembly last week, Zhou and Paradza, who usually sit far in the back benches, heckled Karenyi and labelled her a fourth wife.
On the other hand, whenever Mamombe posed questions to ministers, the same male legislators called her a prostitute.
“Our male counterparts should treat us with respect, because we are mothers and MPs. We should feel free to stand up and debate without being given or being labelled, as we are not wives of such MPs,” Karenyi said.
“This sexual harassment continues every day when we step inside this Parliament. Mamombe and I are the recipients of this sexual harassment from these two male MPs, and this must stop.”
She said the male MPs’ behaviour was not only a violation of women’s constitutional rights, but was also un-parliamentary.
“Since Parliament has the duty to represent women, we want respect, and it is our constitutional right to be here as MPs,” Karenyi said.
Mudenda said such occurrences should be reported to the police, adding that he would verify the matter and act.