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Sexual harassment cases in govt on increase: PSC

by Staff reporter
19 Jun 2020 at 08:09hrs | Views
PUBLIC Service Commission (PSL) secretary Jonathan Wutawunashe yesterday told Parliament that 19 cases of sexual harassment in government ministries were recorded since last year and 10 of them emanated from the Primary and Secondary Education ministry.

Wutawunashe revealed this when he appeared before the Chido Madiwaled Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs to speak on issues of sexual harassment in government departments.

This was after the committee gathered oral evidence from university students and other stakeholders who opened up to the effect that sexual harassment was rampant.

Wutawunashe also told the committee that the 19 cases might be understated as there was a possibility that issues of sexual harassment were not reported by the victims for fear of stigmatisation.

He said victims might also fail to report for fear of being accused by peers, and fear of ruining their families, especially among married women.

"The PSC has been grappling with issues of sexual harassment and is finalising a policy position on this issue because it might be prevalent at work stations, but most victims may not report such cases for a number of reasons that include fear of retaliation and that they might be relieved of duties, stigma and accusations that they are of loose morals, that nothing will be done to the perpetrator," the PSC boss said.

"The sexual harassment cases that were reported from 2019 to 2020 were three cases from the Home Affairs ministry, one case from the Foreign Affairs ministry, one case from the Transport ministry, one case from the Women Affairs ministry, three from the Lands ministry and 10 cases from the Primary and Secondary Education ministry."

Wutawunashe said all cases went through disciplinary hearings and in some cases, the perpetrators were dismissed and victims encouraged to seek legal recourse.

He said there was need to have a proper definition of "sexual harassment" because it included asking for sexual favours in exchange for employment, unwelcome physical contact, uninvited sex teasing or sex jokes, unsavoury comments about a woman's structure or dressing.

"One of the challenges faced by the PSC and ministries in dealing with sexual harassment is lack of skilled and experienced human resources capital to investigate and prosecute these cases.

"But we have sought the assistance of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission. Cases of sexual harassment are difficult to deal with because irrefutable evidence is required."

He said there was also need for a culture change in order to ensure that men understand issues of sexual harassment at work, adding that plans were underway to launch a Public Service Academy to teach staff about such issues.

Wutawunashe said the policy on sexual harassment would include stringent penalties, adding that most of the impediments to reporting the cases were because most of the perpetrators were bosses to the victims. He said most of the sexual harassment cases involved females as victims.

Madiwa said the committee heard that sexual harassment was rampant at universities and colleges where women were abused to secure better grades or by "semester husbands" who ask for sexual favours in exchange for upkeep.

Source - newsday