18 December 2018

Zimbabwe: Gender Commission Says Too Incapacitated to Confront College Sex Predators

The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) says it does not have enough personnel and other resources to investigate rampant cases of sexual harassment within the country's institutions of higher learning.

ZGC legal and investigations committee chair, Victor Nkiwane Monday cited lack of funding as part of the reasons why the commission could not match the demand for its services.

Zimbabwean universities and colleges are awash with cases of unscrupulous lecturers demanding sexual favours from female students in exchange for higher marks with those who turn down the advances being made to fail.

Sworn in September 2015, the nine member commission flexed its muscles recently through the summoning for hearing, three top ranking Zimbabwe Immigration Department officials accused of sexual harassment by their subordinates.

But the commission admits it was not yet fully capacitated to cascade its operations to tertiary institutions where the vice is prevalent.

"We are still in the process of recruiting personnel. We don't have enough investigators and we don't have enough legal officers," Nkiwane told NewZimbabwe.com.

"So the process of recruitment will point to the fact that these investigations will probably take place in the incoming year 2019."

The ZGC official suggested that despite claims of sexual harassment being a common vice within colleges, less has come to its desk by way of formal complaints amid suspicions students feared a backlash from their tutors if they came out boldly to finger them in the malpractices.

"It is also important for you to understand that in order to investigate, you need a complainant. Without a complainant, you cannot investigate.

"But what we are intending to do is to go to tertiary institutions in the initial stage and address students and staff on issues of sexual harassment because in many instances, people are not aware... they don't know how to deal with it when it happens especially where you deal with unequal relations.

"I can also point out that we carried out some awareness in line with 16 days of activism against gender based violence."

Commenting on the same issue, ZGC chief executive officer Virginia Muwanigwa said they have handled a complaint from the Midlands State University (MSU) through its vice chancellor who obliged by giving the commission more information on the matter.

"We already have a plan which is part of our strategic framework plan to engage tertiary institutions on issues of sexual harassment of female students," she said.

Muwanigwa said an overwhelming majority of sexual harassment complaints emerged from female students but pledged to give the complaints similar attention should they also come from male students.

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