CABINET on Tuesday considered and approved the Zimbabwe Public Sexual Harassment Policy meant to create a conducive public service “workplace environment free from sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse”.
According to the Cabinet, the policy is meant to ensure the “protection of the dignity of workers in the public service and maximum work productivity for efficient and effective service delivery”.
It comes at a time when there have been several reports of sexual harassment in government departments and also in the private sector, with mainly women being victims of sexual predators.
It also comes when reports of gender-based violence and harassment are on a sharp increase in workplaces.
The government, instead of just coming up with a policy that covers the public service only, they must ensure it becomes national and binding on everyone.
This would go a long way in curbing sexual harassment and gender-violence, not only at workplaces, but everywhere.
The national policy should be underpinned by the same principles the Cabinet agreed on Tuesday, which are:
- ·To combat sexual harassment;
- · To provide a safe working environment that is free from sexual harassment;
- ·To support diversity and inclusive work practices;
- ·To promote respect amongst all people in the workplace;
- ·To encourage fair and equitable treatment of all people in the workplace;
- ·To put in place mechanisms for redress in cases of sexual harassment in the public service; and
- ·To inform all members that if allegations of sexual harassment are levelled and substantiated against them, they are liable for such actions.
The Cabinet was unequivocal that the elimination of gender-based violence and harassment is “central to the attainment of the targets of sustainable development goal on gender equality through elimination of barriers that hinder the full participation, empowerment and progress of public servants in the workplace”.
There is a need to fully acknowledge that Zimbabwe has a domestic violence problem.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation due to the economic pressures the lockdowns have brought on households.
Couples also spent a lot of time together than before thereby exposing the victims of domestic violence more to the perpetrators.
The recent statistics provided by the police, the ministry of Women’s Affairs and other civic organisations are grim and call for urgent attention to end GBV both against women and men, hence the need for a national policy on both sexual harassment and gender-based violence.