Speaking at a function to mark World Press Freedom Day organised by the Zimbabwe Union for Journalists under the theme ‘Journalists against sexual harassment’, Supt Jessie Banda from the ZRP Public Relations section said the police were limited when victims of sexual abuse made reports.
“We have never charged anyone with sexual harassment, because there is no law which specifically penalises such conduct. Sexual harassment is complex to police officers because sexual abuse does not exist in the vocabulary of police officers,” said Banda.
As a result, accused persons have to be charged under alternatives laws. The police often have to dissect a charge from the Criminal (Codification) Act, which was time consuming, she said.
In most cases perpetrators of sexual offences are charged with assault or aggravated assault, which might diminish the gravity of the offence.
ZUJ launched a campaign against sexual harassment in the media on Press Freedom Day and the union’s Secretary General, Foster Dongozi, said it was time to speak and act against the harassment of female reporters.
“This launch is only going to instigate the discussion on tracing causes of sexual harassment in the media, searching solutions, exploring legal and policy frameworks to reduce the cases and mapping the way forward,” Dongozi said.
Meanwhile, veteran journalist, Edinah Masanga, has called on fellow female scribes to stand up against sexual abuse at the workplace.
Speaking at a talk shop organised by the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section last week, Masanga, the Director of the Women Empowerment Foundation of Southern Africa, said female journalists were suffering silently.
“Sexual harassment is there in the newsroom and is rampant, with female journalists not coming out of their cocoons to speak out about it. We need to come together as female journalists and use the media as a tool to challenge the secrecy behind the issue and other gender related issues in the newsroom,” said Masanga.
The US Embassy this year celebrated press freedom in different fashion, focusing on matters that are normally untold or neglected.
Masanga, who narrated her ordeal during her stint in the mainstream media, strongly believes the onus is on female journalists to act and change their situation.
“I was harassed all the way. Sexual advances came on a daily basis and this made me feel small and lose confidence in myself,” Masanga said.
Chris Msipa, editor at the Humanitarian Information Facility Centre, said: “There is a lot of silence around the issue with most women afraid of naming and shaming the perpetrators.”Post published in: News