By Alois Vinga
ZIMBABWE is dragging its feet in ratifying the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention 190 on Violence and Sexual Harassment, a top official in the labour movement has revealed.
The scourge of sexual harassment which includes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favours and comments, jokes, and acts in exchange for favors like promotions and salary hikes remains rampant in Zimbabwe.
In the worst cases, employees can be threatened with dismissals or ill-treatment if they resist advances.
Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work was adopted by the ILO in June 2019 in a bid to push member states to craft water-tight legislation for the protection of women in the world of work.
But speaking to NewZimbabwe.com, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) head of legal, education, and gender department, Fiona Magaya blamed authorities for their lethargic approach to things.
“Zimbabwe has not ratified the convention as yet. Parliamentary consultations were held from the end of May up to 4 June 2021 on the prevalence of sexual harassment and the gaps in the Labour Act. Workers in the respective areas went to make their submissions on the matter,” she said.
Magaya said part of the delays are being caused by the government’s desire to first domesticate the convention, an attempt which she said is tilted towards avoiding a legal obligation.
“As ZCTU we disagree because ratification must come first followed by domestication which allows parliament to undertake legislative reforms to incorporate provisions of Convention into our laws. Currently, the Labour Act does not define sexual harassment and merely mentions it as an unfair labour practice,” she said.
The gender expert said continued delays will expose victims of sexual harassment in the workplace who have endured a prolonged period without any legal protection and punitive measures for perpetrators.
She bemoaned that Zimbabwe does not have a comprehensive law on sexual and gender-based violence.
Said Magaya: As ZCTU, we are s demanding the urgent amendment of Section 8 of the Labour Act to incorporate proper definition and types of sexual harassment, protection and right to compensation for victims and punitive measures for perpetrators.”
Efforts to get a comment on the matter from Labour Minister, Paul Mavima were fruitless.
A 2017 report by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) revealed that 14% of the participants indicated they had been sexually harassed at work.
The survey said 48% of the respondents had witnessed a colleague being sexually harassed at their workplace, 26% of the respondents were not aware of the ways to address sexual harassment at their workforces.