Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
SEXTORTION at the workplace is on the rise and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) has called for a Sexual Harassment Act to protect women against being forced to sell their bodies for favours in all sectors of society.
Women, especially those living in the country’s mining areas, are a constant target of sexual abuse and domestic violence on top of having their rights to water and other basics taken away from them by their male counterparts.
They also endure gender-based violence and have limited or no economic opportunities for them to transform their lives.
The women end up giving in and offering sexual favours (sextortion) so that they have access to mining permits, land, jobs and finance.
Addressing a Midlands State University (MSU) Gender Institute Symposium held in collaboration with the Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation (CCMT) at MSU main campus in Gweru on Friday, ZGC chief executive Mrs Virginia Muwanigwa said the use of sex as a currency was rife in mining and other sectors of the economy.
The Gender Symposium was aimed at sharing the findings of the research on challenges, opportunities and experiences of women miners in Zvishavane district.
The purpose of the research was to demonstrate how big the problem of gender inequalities was in a bid to trigger sympathy of policy makers to the plight of women miners.
Mrs Muwanigwa said sex as a currency is now a pandemic which needs urgent enactment of a law to protect women.
She said there is a need to address conflict, especially in the mining sector to curb sextortion.
“There is a new term called sextortion which is the use of sex as a currency by women in mining and other sectors of the economy. Sex as a currency is now a pandemic and we are working with different stakeholders so that we have a Sexual Harassment Act. Remember sexual harassment is not just in the office, it’s in the workplace and that workplace can be at a mining shaft or in the fields. So sexual harassment can be in the public place,” she said.
Mrs Muwanigwa said sextortion transcends all sectors of the economy mainly because of power, financial and traditional imbalances between men and women.
“Sextortion is rife. It’s a pandemic now more so because of economic challenges especially now because of Covid-19,” she said.
Mrs Muwanigwa said women should be in positions of leadership and decision making to curb the surge in cases of them using sex as a currency.
MSU Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Kadmiel Wekwete, in his welcome remarks, said collaboration between MSU Gender Institute and CCMT is key to the institution’s key priority areas and strategic plan.
For a long time, he said, women have occupied the peripheries of the mining industry yet there are big opportunities for them at the core of the sector.
“I am informed that CCMT and MSU Gender Institute collaborated on research that aimed to access the extent to which mining activities have impacted on women and if host communities have benefited from the mineral extraction taking place,” said Prof Wekwete.
He said it is also against Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which seeks to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” as well as Goal 16 of the SDGs which seeks to “promote just peaceful and inclusive societies.”
CCMT director Mr Wonder Phiri said there must be a strong link between academic institutions like MSU, the civil society organisations and the community in bringing out Education 5.0 which directs universities and tertiary institutions to be focused on programmes that lead to production of goods and services.