The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) has said it is pushing for the enactment of a Sexual Harassment Act amid rising cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Sexual harassment not only violates the rights of individuals but also hampers the progress of our societies. It [sexual harassment] creates a hostile environment that inhibits the full participation of women in various sectors, including education, employment and public life,” ZGC spokesperson Sandra Mudzengerere said this week.
Skeletons are tumbling from the closet at State broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, with senior managers implicated in sexual harassment allegations. This has triggered more victims to open up and several managers will appear before disciplinary hearings.
It is not only at ZBC where the practice is rampant. In the public and private sectors, cases of sexual harassment are rife.
In fact, sexual harassment has been normalised by bosses and managers as they take advantage of desperate employees under the mistaken belief that they have carte blanche by virtue of their positions.
We have heard cases of students on attachment being sexually harassed by supervisors. These predatory supervisors ride on the fact that students must pass work-related learning (attachment). We have also heard stories of lecturers who employ the “sex for marks” rule, a despicable act that can be stopped by an Act of Parliament.
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The International Labour Organisation (ILO) noted that sexual harassment encompasses a range of behaviours and practices of a sexual nature, such as unwanted sexual comments or advances, “jokes”, displaying pictures or posters objectifying women, physical contact, or sexual assault. Sexual harassment may be perpetrated by different individuals, including colleagues, supervisors, subordinates and third parties.
If left unchecked, sexual harassment creates an unpleasant working environment. The ILO committee of experts noted that sexual harassment undermines equality at work by calling into question the integrity, dignity and well-being of workers.
It said sexual harassment damages an enterprise by weakening the bases upon which work relationships are built and impairing productivity.
It can also result in losses to companies in terms of medical care and counselling, lost productivity, case settlement and judicial monetary awards. For employers, sexual harassment can also lead to significant reputation costs.
What happened at Pockets Hill, is only a tip of the iceberg as there are many unreported cases in the country due to societal fears and stigma that “punishes” women.
Former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries CEO Farai Zizhou had his assets seized to compensate his former personal assistant who had been dismissed after denying executive’s sexual overtures.
It was a landmark ruling that should serve as a warning to sex predators, more so, after judgment came 20 years later. However, as recent cases show, sex predators are like the Bourbons that learnt nothing and forgot nothing.
The Sexual Harassment Act is required as soon as yesterday to create favourable workplace environments. It cannot be business as usual for sex predators to flourish.