First Street, Harare, Zimbabwe | Photo By Gary Bembridge (Reused under CC)

Sexual harassment of female students jolts Zimbabwe parliament into action

By Wellington Zimbowa

 

The Zimbabwean parliament is set to partner all higher education institutions in combating sexual harassment of female students, legislator Beatrice Nyamupinga has revealed.

Nyamupinga, the women’s affairs, gender and community development parliamentary committee chair, said her committee is seized with sexual harassment cases reports hence the need to find lasting solutions.

“We are still communicating with colleges and universities over this intention. We will be also working with the education parliamentary committee and the Female Students Network (FSN) in this bid to make education a safe learning environment for the girl-child,” she said at a female students workshop held Wednesday at the University of Zimbabwe.

Nyamupinga, however, said they only hope to get funding for the legislators to carry out this initiative as the government had no capacity to finance the project which will be carried out together with the FSN.

Meanwhile, Nyamupinga revealed the FSN pressure group is now a friend of the august house and a strategic member of the parliamentary committee that she chairs.

FSN is a pressure group calling for a better learning and empowering environment for the student girl-child and won a UNESCO global award prize for its roles in 2016.

Its 2015 baseline survey carried in 21 higher learning institutions unearthed rampant sexual harassment and victimization in both and private colleges and universities by staff due to poverty and fears to fail exams.

Peer pressure and drug abuse were the main triggers of perpetration by the male students.

The report noted that unavailability of sound policies at institutions to tame the scourge highlighted as emotionally and psychologically affecting female students’ fuels the problem, with some even dropping studies.

The legislator said the sexual harassment scourge is undermining the quality of education in Zimbabwe.

“Now we really don’t know if colleges are producing fit female graduates. Are those passing exams really passing because they know or it’s because they would have acceded to a sexual request from male lecturers?

“Those who, fail is it that they would have failed or they may be intelligent but paying the price for refusing sexual courtship from their male lecturers,” she queried.

Nyamupinga as a basic right, education is crucial for national development highlighting that a specific criminal law is key for perpetrators of sexual harassment of female students

According to the United Nations, one in three women has encountered either physical or sexual violence, which affects their physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive healthy.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 focuses on achieving “gender equality and empowering all women and girls.”

This includes ‘elimination of all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.’

Facilitated through professor Julie Stewart of the Women in Law Institute, the workshop was attended by students, government officials and the FSN team led by its director Evernice Munando.

 

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