Sexual and Sexist harassment a cancerous norm in Zimbabwe

Guest Column: Lynette Chipenda

Coming from work, I was heading down to catch a taxi home. As I was crossing the street, a white truck drove by with three men inside. They asked whether I wanted a lift into town and I politely declined.

Suddenly they slowed down and started hurtling hateful words towards me.

“Who do you think you are? You think you are special? You are not even pretty. What do you think we’ll do to you. You are not even a virgin, you are nothing special.”

You can just imagine how much more crude those words are in vernacular. To say the least, I was deeply offended and there was nothing I could do or say. I felt helpless and utterly disgusted.

They spent a good amount of time, stationary, passing their degradatory comments until the traffic light turned green.

What right did they have to insult me in such a manner?

They didn’t even know anything about me; a stranger on the street. I began to wonder how they treat their wives, mothers and sisters..people whose faults they are aware of.

All those previous encounters with these uncouth brutes on the street and at work began to flood back into my mind. The countless times I have been gropped, the uninvited grabbing, the snide remarks, unnecessary sexual innuendos. The Sexual Harassment!

There are rogues running wild on our streets, offices and homes. Whelps who act as if they are sexually depraved , who think it is within their rights to make inappropriate advances towards women, as if women are a non entity.

Men who believe degrading a woman in public earns them a badge of honour. It all comes down to the idea that women are inferior and that it is a favour for any man to make his advance in which ever way.

It all comes down to men not respecting women, something I believe stems from our patriarchal culture. A culture that is now being abused and contextualised, in this sense, to undermine women.

Even on the road you hear then cursing at us, ‘It’s a woman, no wonder! Madam get a move on. Why do they let women drive? Women are not good at this!’ Women being harrased over how they are dressed whilst others by-stand and take videos.

It’s a cancer gnawing our society. A cancer that traverses all societal and economic strata, it’s everywhere!

It’s imperative that women stand together. No victim shaming , break the silence for there is more shame in silence. It’s not a petty issue, never is.

There is no justification for any form of abuse. I don’t want to be fearful as I step out. To be judged by how I dress. Men generally think they have a social and moral obligation to govern anything that has to do with a person of the female gender.

Some are of the opinion that its their call to condemn and punish anyone they deem has stepped ‘out if line’. Others think that they are deeply aware of what women want, money, a car and takeaway.

Please, those were just concepts used in the wake of the rise of STDs.

Women should empower themselves. We are so much more. If we respect ourselves, we won’t crumble under any form of victimisation. Let us stand together.

Let us be aware of our rights. Do not be manipulated. Let’s teach our men, young and old, to respect women.

A renewed mindset will inevitably positively transform behaviour and the effects will cascade through every facet of our society.