BY DONALD NYANDORO
PARLIAMENT has been urged to craft a law on sexual harassment to ensure stiff penalties on perpetrators to effectively deal with the vice.
This came out last week during a meeting involving the Women’s Academy for Learning and Political Excellence (Walpe), the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Labour, and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs to discuss issues of sexual harassment against women.
Walpe director Sitabile Dewa told MPs that one of the pivotal Bills during the new Fourth Session of the Ninth Parliament should be a Sexual Harassment Bill. Dewa expressed concern that such a law has not yet been crafted to deal with sex offenders.
“Whereas the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for gender equality including women’s freedoms and full participation in political, social, economic and cultural life, the country lacks a standalone sexual harassment law to protect women in public and private spaces,” Dewa said.
“The government must make it mandatory for political parties to also craft sexual harassment policies to protect women politicians,” she said.
“Females must be groomed for public office to enable them to boost their confidence and, therefore, sexual harassment policies within political parties will assist to increase the number of women participating in politics and other sectors of the economy.
“Crafting of a stand-alone Sexual Harassment Bill will ensure that sexual offenders are punished, and that victims are protected. It will go a long way in increasing the participation of women in politics. Once the Bill is passed into law, it will be a major stepping stone for the effective participation of women and girls in leadership and decision-making processes,” she said.
Participants expressed concern over an increase in cases of sexual harassment in the country, even among MPs, councillors, voters, at bus termini, churches and waterpoints among several other places.
Mutare West MP Percy Teedzai Muchimwe (Zanu PF) said the Sexual Harassment Bill should be pushed through Parliament during the Fourth Session of the Ninth Parliament.
“There is no one else other than ourselves that can push the Bill to make sure that by the end of our term it will be an Act which will minimise sexual harassment cases. The education curriculum must also include lessons on sexual harassment,” Muchimwe said.
Headlands MP Christopher Chingosho urged all legislators to support the Bill should it come before Parliament.
“As of now there is no progress on the Sexual Harassment Bill. MPs that are gathered here should encourage other MPs to support the Bill when it comes before Parliament so that it is passed into law,” Chingosho said.