'Sexual harassment at workplace rises'

HARARE - Women are reported to be struggling with sexual harassment at the workplace, with a majority of them suffering in silence due to perpetrators who usually hold high positions in organisations and government.

Surveys conducted by researchers have shown that women are extensively sexually harassed and objectified by men in the work place.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is generally defined as a form of discrimination that includes any uninvited comments, conduct, or behaviour regarding sex, gender, or sexual orientation.

Gender Commission chairperson Margret Mukahanana-Sangarwe, speaking at the launch 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign under the national theme ‘‘Creating Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment in the Workplace’’ revealed that many women do not even understand what it infers.

“Basically sexual harassment refers to any sex-based behaviour that is unwelcome or offensive to the recipient made by a person who knows reasonably that such attention is unwanted,” she said.

All employees of any position from management to entry-level are susceptible to sexual harassments, but women are profusely victimised.

Mukahanana-Sangarwe said that it includes oriented conduct that interferers with an employee’s job performance and creates intimidating hostile or offensive working environment committed either on or off work premises

“Promising directly or indirectly, an employee, partner or beneficiary benefits in exchange for sexual favours.

“Denying directly or indirectly, an employee an employment-related opportunity if he or she refuses to comply with asexual oriented request.

Making sexual romantic advances toward an employee and persisting despite the employee’s rejection of physical conduct that includes touching, assaulting or impeding or blocking movements…,”she said.

Women’s Coalition chairperson, Ronika Mumbire said the workplace is also another place of sexual abuse, apart from spousal abuse which is mainly a result of patriarchal socialisation that views women as perpetual minors.

“The home is not the only spot for abuse, the work place and public places including our cities, children are also exposed to abuse with most of it coming from the relatives.

“Women face all sorts of violence… women face sexual, physical, emotional, psychological and socio-economic abuse,” she said.

Research and Advocacy Unit in a report on sexual harassment said that a study, entitled ‘‘Sexual Harassment in Zimbabwe workplaces’’ found that 14 percent of the participants indicated that they had been sexually harassed at work while 48 percent of the respondents had witnessed a colleague being sexually harassed.

The Gender Commission revealed that some organisations like National Aids Council (NAC) and ‘Immigration’ are being investigated for alleged sexual harassment reports.

The commission said that NAC has a case to answer once the report is out after the preliminary investigation.

In 2016, female employees in the banking sector were also reported to have been abused.

Another survey report by Industrial Psychology Consultants titled Sexual Harassment in Zimbabwean Workplaces conducted in 2017 revealed sexual harassment cases were prevalent in non-governmental organisations (19 percent), professional services (18 percent), banking sector (17 percent), and telecommunications (16 percent).

Mukahanana-Sangarwe, however, said businesses have more to lose because sexual harassment has negative effects on the working environment.

“It also affects the heath of victims as many usually suffer from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder among other illnesses.

“Victims of sexual harassment are also affected psychologically, as their confidence and morale gets eroded,” she said.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe under section 65 provides for sexual harassment under labour rights. It states that every person has the right to fair and safe labour practices and standards and to be paid a fair and reasonable wage.

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