Gender Commission calls for dress code policy at universities

The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) has appealed to tertiary institutions in the country to introduce a dress code policy to reduce cases of sexual harassment.

This came out at a sexual harassment public lecture held at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) on Tuesday.

ZGC legal and investigations manager Delis Mazambane noted that the constitution promotes freedom of expression but provisions to safeguard people against sexual harassment advances can be exceptional.

“To make life easier for the lecturer the university needs to have a dress code policy, of course, the constitution talks about freedom of expression but institutions are allowed to cascade such provisions to their own needs,” said Mazambane.

She added that the dress code policy could apply when students are attending lectures as well as official functions in their respective institutions.  

“During the weekend, the students can then wear whatever they want but when attending lectures, they need to be guided on how to dress and this makes it easier for lecturers to pinpoint that according to the university’s policy you are not dressed appropriately,” said Mazambane.

She said judicial courts have dress codes and members of the public will not be allowed to enter the premises if dressed otherwise and it would not be bad for tertiary institutions to do the same.

The legal and investigations manager also emphasised that relationships between a student and a lecturer are not allowed regardless of what the institute’s policy reads.

“The students are a no-go area and lecturers should not even approach them with sexual advances,” she added.

The NUST Dean of Students Sibongile Kamusoko reiterated that the main challenge they face when it comes to sexual harassment issues is that people entertain and tolerate sexual harassment and advances in certain environments.

“Very often I see young men coming forward to report that women are being abused but the women themselves don’t step up so there is no way we can do anything without tangible proof and information,” she said.

Kamusoko added that most students who do that want to come forward after graduation to try and lay charges against the perpetrators but such issues need to be attended early.

One student suggested that institutions need to assess lecturers before hiring them and have background checks to make sure they do not employ sexual perverts.

“Can universities have a mechanism to sample if someone is a perpetrator or if they have any cases of previously abusing students in their workplaces,” she said.

According to the Students and Youth Working on Sexual and Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT), At least 70% of university students are reportedly being sexually harassed by lecturers in tertiary institutions, due to financial challenges and academic needs.  

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