By Kudakwashe Vhenge
The Public Service Commission has come up with a Draft on Sexual Harassment Policy with input from relevant stakeholders which is meant to set out the legal parameters for civil servants to comply with the law.
This was revealed during the belated International Day of the Girl Child Commemorations that were held in Harare on Wednesday.
The event which was hosted by Female Students Network Trust (FSNT) brought together female students from various institutions of higher learning and backgrounds, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), government officials as well as ZRP’s victim friendly unit who all expressed their allegiance to the protection of girls’ rights.
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Speaking at the event, Ministry of Woman Affairs, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Provincial Development Officer, Mr Ernest Chimbodza conveyed gratitude to COSs among them FSNT who lobbied for the adoption of a Sexual Harassment Policy in the country.
”As government, we considered your petition on the need for a special policy on sexual harassment and as l am speaking to you right now, the Public Service Commission is working on a draft of the document compelling every government employee to be sensitive on issues of sexual harassment,” he said.
FSNT has for long reiterated the need to have a law that directly deal with sexual harassment or that which criminalizes sexual harassment as a primary solution to the prevalence of this offense as it seek to hold perpetrators accountable of their actions.
However in a statement, the Public Service Commission has said that the progress in dealing with sexual harassment was slow owing to reluctance on the part of many survivors to come forward.
“The other shortcomings with the regulations are that generally a complaint of sexual harassment must be made to a member in a position of authority (the head of office or department), who may be the actual perpetrator and there is no built-in procedure for disputes to be settled initially by means of conciliation.
“Having noted these shortcomings and with the ultimate goal of creating a safe working environment for all, the Commission came up with a ‘zero draft’ on sexual harassment, after which input was widely solicited from all stakeholders to craft a water tight policy which sets out the legal responsibilities and obligations of members in the Public Service in compliance with the law.”
Wednesday’s belated International Day of the Girl Child Commemorations which was held under the theme “her voice matters, my voice our equal future” coincided with the beginning of 16 days of activism against gender based violence.
October 11 of every year was set aside as the International Day of the Girl Child by the United Nations General Assembly. The day was set aside to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
It focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.