Lawyer: Labour Act must address sextortion in workplaces

For the issue of sexual harassment to be effectively dealt with in workplaces, the Labour Act must address sextortion which is becoming rampant in workplaces, a human rights lawyer has said. 

The Labour Amendment Bill, which was passed into law on July 14, 2023, among other things sought to address issues of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, maternity leave, child labour and retrenchment of workers. 

Speaking at a recent workshop hosted by Emthonjeni Women’s Forum in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyer, Prisca Dube, said for the issue of sexual harassment to be effectively addressed, sextortion must be highlighted in the law and proper mechanisms must be enacted to arrest it. 

“Issues of sexual harassment in Zimbabwe unfortunately have a serious twin that most of us tend to ignore which is sextortion. Sextortion is where sex is used as a currency for a corrupt activity. For example in tertiary education institutions we hear of sex for marks,” Dube said.

“Something like that also happens in the workspace sometimes. You find that someone uses sex to get overtime so that they augment their basic salary, or not to be deployed to rural areas. In such instances you find that because the victim has benefitted from it, the issue rarely gets reported. We forget that here two offences have happened. Both parties would have broken the law. The person in authority would have committed an offense of abuse of office.” 

Dube emphasised that having sexual relations at work is prohibited and the local laws must be aligned to international best practices to curb such. 

“Having sexual relations at work is not part of the work contract. Therefore, we need to sternly deal with sextortion as a country. As ZLHR, we pray that as we speak of labour rights and the Labour Amendment Act of July 14, 2023, the minister will take it in hand and have regulations that will not only amplify issues of sexual harassment, but also sextortion reporting mechanisms and how it can be linked to ILO c190 and the broader provisions that it has which we currently do not have in Zimbabwe,” she said. 

EFW Director, Sikhathele Mathambo, said as an organisation that contributed to the amendments made to the Act, in respect to issues of sexual harasssment, they are happy with the progress and they hope that media practitioners will play a pivotal role in educating and informing people about the legislation.

“We saw it important to have a conversation with media practitioners. Realizing that the Labour Amendment Act is two months old and as an organisation, we had advocated for amendments to the former legislation to ensure that it comprehensively speaks to issues of sexual harassment. Now that the Act is there, we saw it important to engage the fourth estate so that they amplify the Act, especially the sections that deal with issues of sexual harassment in the workspace,” she said. 

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