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» » Women organizations advocate for disability friendly sexual harassment laws


Kumbirai Kahiya Chikowero
Veeslee Mhepo 

Women’s organizations have said people with disabilities should be consulted on sexual harassment concerns to make the laws friendly to their needs.

Sexual harassment has been defined in civic spaces as an unwelcome sexual attention that can take place in both public and private spaces.

Joint Parliamentary Portifolio Committees on Public Service Labor and Social Welfare together with Women Affairs, Gender Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development recently held public consultations on the proposed Sexual Harassment Bill around the country.

 A sexual harassment opinion paper by Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe said the proposed Sexual Harassment Bill should have contributions by people with disabilities (PWDs) as their concerns are often ignored.

“It is important that this law is contributed to by women and girls with disabilities to ensure that the law is inclusive, gender sensitive and reflects the needs of all people, particularly women and girls.

“Criminalizing sexual harassment will protect those who will not be covered under the realm of labor law. This will not mean removing such cases from the realm of labor law but would present an option for women to decide which forum they feel will best address their problem,” read the opinion paper.

IcodZim Marketing Officer Elinera Manyonga said she wished the bill could include  tough penalties to perpetrators who sexually harass disabled people and there should be  department  at the police station that specifically deal with sexual harassment  issues.

“We are for the proposed Sexual Harassment   Bill and hope to see it as an Act soon. Sexual harassment issues happen every day and punishment for perpetrators who abuse women especially disabled women should be tough, like at least five to ten years imprisonment because we want a disability friendly sexual harassment laws.
“The bill should also include specific departments in the police that deal with sexual harassment and these department should be disability friendly to cater for disabled people who come to report,” said Manyonga.

Musasa Project advocacy officer Rotina  Mafume said that the bill should clearly define sexual harassment and should include everyone in all sectors of life especially PWDs and  there should some form of censure to make sure sexual harassment offences are taken seriously.

“The bill should be all inclusive, disability friendly and there should be clear definition of sexual harassment. There should be prevention strategies that provide censure if an institution is not serious about sexual harassment for example if a company , political party or transport companies do not put measures to prevent sexual harassment issues,” said Mafume.

 Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) officer Batanayi Gwangwawa suggested that the bill should define sexual harassment as wide as possible and perpetrators should be punished accordingly.

“The bill should define sexual harassment and give perpetrators appropriate sentences  because sexual harassment costs everyone even the government as they put in place structures in the  Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) and social services to assist survivors,” said Gwangwawa.

Girls and Women Empowerment Network Trust (GWEN) director Kumbirai Kahiya Chikowero said the bill should be clear, criminalize sexual harassment, cater for everyone, protect survivors and should set out punishment for every offense.

“Sexual Harassment Bill should include criminalization of sexual harassment and clearly set out punishment for offences, it should protect survivors in ways that do not affect their income or work space independence.

“There should be protection of whistle blowers, clear and broad definition of sexual harassment especially at the workplace and for PWDs.

“The bill should cover all institutions civil society, government, universities, informal sector and set up of district level committees to hear cases of sexual harassment and should clearly state that every employer should have in place sexual harassment policy and pass it to every employer especially new workers,” said Chikowero.

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