Home » Human Rights » Clampdown On Chauvinists, Perverts

Female Members of Parliament recently shared their harrowing experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of their male counterparts in an endeavour to hold political positions.

In a candid talk, the female legislators alleged that male politicians from various parties demanded sexual favours from aspiring MPs as a condition to qualify in primary elections or get support at the height of election campaigns.

As a result of the dirty politics where the majority of women faced sexual exploitation, a number of them pulled out of the race, leaving men to run for office on their own.

These revelations are a microcosm of the serious problem of sexual harassment in Zimbabwe.

Sexual harassment has actually spread its tentacles to all sectors, and its manifestations have had serious implications on the general welfare of women and their aancement.

This revelation is also telling of the dangers the generality of women find themselves in, on a daily basis, in their effort to better their lives.

It also speaks volumes of the gravity of sexual harassment in Zimbabwe, a problem that is now worryingly embedded across age groups and has remained a thorny issue, despite the existence of various legislation.

If anything, the existence of tough legislation has not curtailed the problem.

While many women and girls now speak out about their nasty experiences with abusers, a huge number of cases — the experts tells us — still go unreported.

This means the problem remain much bigger than we think.

What is not in doubt is that sexual harassment is very rampant and widespread. Women have been sexually harassed for the entirety of human existence.

Under slavery, African women were sexually abused by their white masters and today women working in homes or anywhere else, for that matter, remain targets of sexual abuse.

Not much has really changed.

It is indisputable that since the beginning of industrialisation, women working in factories, offices or farms have had to endure sexual comments and demands from their bosses and co-workers as a price for economic survival.

So all women are vulnerable to this type of violence irrespective of their occupational, marital, educational and economic status and there is evidence to show that women are by their physiological status a target of harassment in society.

If highly empowered women like Parliamentarians and other aspiring office holders can become victims of sexual harassment I then shudder to think of what is happening to the female populace in the remote parts of the country, or better still in other communities, where women are equated to more or less household furniture and are treated as minors.

As students, women and girls have been sexual preys to teachers for as long as they have allowed to being educated. No one really knows how many teachers have made young innocent girls sit on their lap in return of a good exam mark, how many tertiary students have been told to sleep with their lecturers or risk failing that important module and how many women have had to give in to carpet interviews to get a job, or that badly needed raise or worse still maintain that job that is constantly under threat.

We will never know how many women were fondled openly by the malaitshas after failing to raise enough token fee and thousands of those who had to abandon their projects midway after failing to return a favour sexually.

And the majority of all these factors never shared their stories for fear of stigma, labelling or just fear of persecution by the perpetrators, who usually are powerful men, in authority and are well connected.

And the reason why sexual harassment issues are never put in the public domain is because women’s responses to harassment have been more about endurance than resistance for fear of double victimisation.

While many may want to argue that sexual harassment affects both men and women, the truth of the matter it has become a major problem that women have to contend with on a day to day basis.

Sexual harassment is a game of power.

Because of the unequal distribution of resources and the imbalance of power dynamics between the two sexes, more often than not, women often find themselves on the receiving end, because they don’t have the resources or the means.

Because they lack the resources and means, women are often taken aantage of and naturally abusers seek gratification in demeaning the status of the abused wantonly.

Female parliamentarians actually conceded that the lack of resources was their greatest demise. They were subjected to sexual harassment because they did not have adequate resources to fund the elections, nor the means to get them.

Fortunately for them, they were victors because they were able to chronicle their stories, other victims of sexual harassment were not as lucky, because the harassment eventually turned into rape and other heinous activities.

However, that practice should not be allowed to continue unabated, while the law enforcers turn a blind eye to such flagrant abuse of women.

Sexual harassment will not go away until society changes its attitude so that women are free to participate and air their views in the public domain without worrying about their skirts.

Laws alone are not enough to root out this evil, whose consequences have long-term implications on the well-being of women and girls world over. Community leaders need to inculcate a sense of respect between the sexes and recognition of the rights of women on sexual matters.

That recognition will ensure mutual respect and that will definitely curb sexual harassment while liberating and empowering women.

Source : The Herald