The Public Service Commission (PSC) has moved in to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace through the sexual harassment policy as part of measures to improve ambience at work stations.
Speaking at the stakeholder workshop on the draft PSC sexual harassment policy this week, PSC commissioner Dr Tsitsi Choruma said; “The commission has categorised sexual harassment at workplaces as totally unacceptable and, consequently, in the envisaged policy any form of behaviour which fits the definition of sexual harassment represents grave misconduct that results in stiff, decisive and deterrent disciplinary measures being instituted.”
Dr Choruma said sexual harassment in the Zimbabwe Public Service are always an unwelcome disruption that poisons the working environment, and the PSC was taking decisive steps to stop the vice.
“While the commission has always been clear and unequivocal in its conceptual approach to sexual harassment, it has recognised a gap between the intent of existing regulations and their application in practice, a gap that, unfortunately, is not peculiar to the Public Service,” she said.
In a statement, the PSC said after realising that sexual harassment could be prevalent in the Zimbabwe Public Services, and also that progress in dealing with the issue was slow owing to reluctance on the part of victims to come forward owing to a number of reasons top of which was fear of retaliation, the commission decided to craft the sexual harassment policy.
“As the current service regulations stand, there is no clear definition and provision for sexual harassment and specific penalties for it,” said the PSC.
“The other shortcomings with the regulations are that generally a complaint of sexual harassment must be made to a member in a position of authority (Head of Office or Department), who may be the actual perpetrator and there is no built-in procedure for disputes to be settled initially by means of conciliation.”
The PSC said the process in coming up with the sexual harassment policy included developing a zero draft, after which input was widely solicited from all stakeholders to craft a water tight policy which sets out the legal responsibilities and obligations of members in the Public Service.
This policy will be in compliance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Public Service Act, the Sexual Offences Act, the Public Service Regulations 2000 and Circulars and Procedures.
The stakeholder workshop, also attended by Secretary to Service Commissions, Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe, had experts in the areas of human rights, women’s rights and sexual harassment policies.
The aim for the PSC sexual harassment policy to capture concerns of all stakeholders and also capture regional and international best practice approaches to strengthening internal accountability systems for the prevention and response to cases of sexual harassment within the public service, including recommendations for adoption and implementation.
The commission has categorised sexual harassment at workplaces as highly unacceptable and consequently, in the policy any form of behaviour which fits the definition of sexual harassment represents misconduct in one way or another and will result in disciplinary measures being instituted.
The policy applies to all members of the civil service, whether employed on permanent or contract basis, all clients or members of the public encountered during the course of duty, all clients with whom Public Service employees interact personally or by telephone, or by electronic communication, all applicants for employment and members of staff associations, while discharging their responsibilities.