Sexual harassment is a legal challenge that must be met by all who pursue human rights in Zimbabwe. Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that:
– Explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment (hiring, firing and employee advancement).
– Unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance.
– Creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Suffice to say that sexual harassment has been in existence as long as women have been employed. Women at times succumb to sexual harassment and are unlikely to report it because while they have captured a significant share in the labour market, improvements in the quality of their jobs have not kept pace. Sexual harassment is illegal, affects everyone, discriminates in employment against gender.
The call for women’s rights has taken a centre stage in Africa and Zimbabwe has shown great alacrity in making Women’s Rights a reality in Parliament, society and workplace. However, sexual harassment in developing countries seems to be unrecognised, insidious crime that is perpetuated against women who have no power and are vulnerable to abuse.
In a survey carried out by Zimbabwe Banks and Bankers Union in 2016 revealed that, “Out of 132 employees who were interviewed and participated in the survey, 61% were female. 31% of the women indicated that they had been victims of sexual harassment or had witnessed sexual harassment in the workplace. Out of the individuals who indicated that they had been victims of sexual harassment, only 34% had reported these cases.”
Labour Act prohibits sexual harassment at the workplace. Sexual harassment is considered one of the “unfair labour practices” and an employer can be held liable for civil remedies only. The International Labour Organization (ILO) recognises seven basic rights of women workers as the rights to equal pay, equal treatment, equal training and career opportunities, maternity, protection, combine work and domestic responsibilities and paid work and the right to work in a safe and healthy work environment free from sexual harassment.
The ultimate goal for fighting sexual harassment is to have a highly significant young person. One who can stand against sexual harassment and also stand for the complete zero tolerance to the culture of sexual harassment from tertiary institutions and workplaces.