Misihairabwi-Mushonga says there is rampant sexual harassment in Parliament


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Zimbabwean legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga yesterday complained that there was rampant sexual harassment in Parliament and asked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa who women being sexually harassed should go to.

Mnangagwa said anyone sexually harassed should report to the police unless as a Member of Parliament the legislator felt this was unparliamentary in which case the member would apply parliamentary procedures to address the issues or breaches.

Speaker Jacob Mudenda said Misihairabwi-Mushonga had  questioned the integrity of Parliament and was surprised that authorities in Parliament had not been informed about the issue.

“The Head of Parliament, the Speaker, has not received any such complaints. So, if you have got details of that, let us know so that appropriate action is taken. Secondly, as replied by the Hon. Vice President, we have police officers here in Parliament. Such harassment should be reported to the police. They are here 24 hours. Perhaps, the hon. member would want to explain.”

Misihairabwi-Mushonga responded:  “I am not sure that we do have the same appreciation of what sexual harassment is, that is what I am getting. There is rampant sexual harassment, sexual harassment around the language that is used towards women, sexual harassment towards the dressing.

“There is so much patriarchal sexual harassment in this House. So I am not sure that you understand where I am coming from. I am not coming from sexual harassment where somebody is literally having sex with you.

“I am not talking of someone forcing you to have sex with them but I am talking about sexual harassment as it relates to how women are treated in this House. It has been many times and if you want us to come back and talk to you about it, we will.

“Women are being sexually harassed. Whether it is a comment about your dressing, how you look, it is actually sexually harassment. That was my question Mr. Speaker Sir.”

 

Q &A:

 

MRS. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: My question is directed to the Vice President and Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. What is Government’s policy on issues of sexual harassment, particularly as it relates to Members of Parliament?

THE VICE PRESIDENT AND MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (MR. MNANGAGWA): I am not so sure I grasp the question and I would want to be excused if I fail to grasp the question. What I have understood is whether Government has separate policy on sexual harassment of Members of Parliament different from sexual harassment for every citizen in the country. We have no separate laws applying to Members of Parliament as country or Government. We are against sexual harassment anywhere. It does not matter where you are or station in life. We are against it. If I understood the question that is the answer.

MRS. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: Supplementary. Perhaps to be more specific, if a Member of Parliament is sexually harassed here where do they go? I can understand in all other institutions that there are structures where you can go and report sexual harassment. If you are sexually harassed here in Parliament where do you go?

MR. MNANGAGWA: Fortunately, Mr Speaker Sir, I am a lawyer. The law is that where a criminal offence has been committed, you report such offence to the police. It is the State versus the accused. However, if the hon. member is of the perception or assumption that it is unparliamentary, then you apply the parliamentary procedures to address parliamentary issues or breaches; depending on how the individual concerned perceives the breach whether it is unparliamentary, then there  are parliamentary procedures to be followed. If it is an offence, we know what to do as Members of Parliament to deal with offences, that is we report the offence for the person to be prosecuted.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order, I think what the honourable member raises in an imputation against the integrity of Parliament. I am surprised that the authorities in Parliament have not been informed about that. The Head of Parliament, the Speaker has not received any such complaints. So, if you have got details of that, let us know so that appropriate action is taken. Secondly, as replied by the Hon. Vice President, we have police officers here in Parliament. Such harassment should be reported to the police. They are here 24 hours. Perhaps, the hon. member would want to explain.

MRS. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: I am not sure that we do have the same appreciation of what sexual harassment is, that is what I am getting. There is rampant sexual harassment, sexual harassment around the language that is used towards women, sexual harassment towards the dressing. There is so much patriarchal sexual harassment in this House. So I am not sure that you understand where I am coming from. I am not coming from sexual harassment where somebody is literally having sex with you. I am not talking of someone forcing you to have sex with them but I am talking about sexual harassment as it relates to how women are treated in this House. It has been many times and if you want us to come back and talk to you about it, we will.

Women are being sexually harassed. Whether it is a comment about your dressing, how you look, it is actually sexually harassment. That was my question Mr. Speaker Sir.

MR. SPEAKER: I do not want to quote myself as a lawyer but I fully understand the definition of sexual harassment. It does not mean intercourse, it means exactly what you have explained as defined in the law. Can hon. members who are so affected come forward and we will deal with the matter accordingly – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.]

Thank you.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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