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Call For Urgent Policies To Stem GBV At Workplaces

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Monday, November 8th, 2021
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There is an urgent need to develop policies that deal with sexual harassment in all its forms at the workplace to considerably reduce or eliminate sexual harassment gender-based violence (SGBV) at the workplace.

This came out at a stakeholders meeting hosted by the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) last Friday.

Running under the theme, “A workplace in transformation”, labour bodies, employers and Government representatives spoke with one voice on the need to develop policies that clearly define sexual harassment in all its forms.

Such policies will introduce structures to be followed and the deterrent penalties that can deal with the menace.

Labour Director in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Langton Ngorima, said sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) at the workplace had far-reaching consequences that threaten sustainable development due to limitations that exist around the issue.

“Provision of jobs and work to women is one way to deal with poverty. No one expects workers to stay forever where employers are violent,” said Mr Ngorima.

“An employee who is violated either sexually or other means will dread to go to work because they know what is waiting for them.

“Where you have employees knowing the workplace is not good because there are predators who “love dresses,” so to speak, the company has a decrease in company returns.”

Mr Ngorima said there were limitations in the scope of legislative frameworks when defining what sexual harassment is, while assumptions were always that only the employer was in the position of being the perpetrator.

Employees and outside clients are also potential perpetrators of sexual harassment and GBV at the workplace.

“If we look at the Labour Act, the definition of sexual harassment is limited in scope, it only speaks on harassment sexually, yet violence manifests in different forms, what about verbal, emotional?” said Mr Ngorima.

“There cannot be proper prosecution of offenders if there is no proper definition of violence and harassment.”

Subtle forms of harassment mainly against female workers were said to be a cause for concern. Informal traders, domestic workers, and critical staff retained during the Covid-19-induced lockdown were among those singled out as vulnerable to SGBV.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union gender specialist, Ms Fiona Magaya, said SGBV at the workplace was being driven by power struggles, bad company practices and social-cultural behaviours.

“Sometimes people are used to doing things in a particular way and we end up thinking that is the norm; that is the law unto our company and we continue to do it,” she said.

“But we are violating other peoples’ rights and sometimes companies fail to bring perpetrators to book.” International Labour Organisation gender expert, Mrs Ida Chimedza, spoke of Convention 190, which seeks to eliminate harassment in the world of work through ensuring right to equality and non-discrimination, including for women workers as well as for vulnerable groups disproportionately affected by harassment at work.

“The convention promotes a survivor-centred approach which puts the survivor of violations at the centre of the policy to ensure they are safe because perpetrators sometimes follow someone at home after they have reported,” she said.

“Issues of confidentiality, some will not report because when I lodge a complaint, by the end of the day the whole building knows. So these cases need to be handled with confidentiality.

“When you lodge your complaint, it’s important regardless of your level in the workplace to be treated with respect and there should be non-discrimination.”

Emcoz executive director, Mrs Nesta Mukwewa, thanked participants for attending the meeting which sought to bring awareness on gender instruments in place for employers and workers.

“Employers and workers can then look at employment policies at their workplace, review them and see how best they can mainstream gender in the policies,” said Mrs Mukwewa.

Photo credit: Google Images

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