Sexual abuse in university students has reached worrying levels, prompting the Parliament of Zimbabwe to do consultations in tertiary institutions to ascertain the major causes.
Joint Parliamentary portfolio committees on Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development and Women Affairs, Community and Small Medium Enterprises Development recently visited Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) at Herbert Chitepo Law School on November 3 for consultations.
GZU Vice Chancellor Professor Rungano Zvobgo said he would not tolerate a lecturer who asks out a student or sexually abuse them.
“I would not forgive a lecturer or member of staff who goes after a student and I take that offence as deserving capital punishment and I advise female students to record the conversations they would have with the perpetrators as part of evidence.
“Lecturers should stay away from our female students even when they are dressed in the way they please because if you go at Ritz night club you would find ladies who are willing to give you company. For the benefit and credibility of our institution, I would like to warn any staff member who was sexually harassing students to desist from such behavior that tarnishes our image,” said Prof Zvobgo.
GZU Dean of Students Sarafina Mudavanhu said female students are often sexually abused by politicians especially during Student Representative Committee (SRC) elections and are threatened when they vie for different posts.
“Female students are often sexually abused by politicians during SRC elections especially when they campaign for posts.
“Our students are offered money for campaigns and sometimes provided with cars so that they can move around. They are sometimes beaten when they lose elections. Female students are mostly victims of sexual harassment because of the harsh economic conditions prevailing in the country.
“They are abused by insiders and outsiders as well and getting paid in cash, with most of them ending up being abused so that they could survive on campus,” said Mudavanhu.
A male lecturer from the university said female students are sexually harassed because of money since there are many expenses incurred at institutions of higher learning and suggested that government puts in place grants for students.
“Students especially females are being sexually harassed because of the poor standards of living they find themselves in and cannot pay for all expenses they incur during their learning process.
“It would be better if government consider bringing back the system of grants so that both parents and students are relieved of expenses they incur along the way,” said the lecturer.
GZU Registrar Sinikiwe Gwatidzo said they receive reports of students being sexually abused but the main challenge is lack of enough evidence to get to the perpetrator.
“We get cases of students being sexually harassed; however the main challenge becomes lack of evidence since most of the students are afraid to open up.
“We have come up with a policy to deal with sexual harassment and it is called Gender Based Violence Policy (GBVP) which include issues to do with dress code so as to deal with the persistent challenges at our institution,” said Gwatidzo.
A student however said she disagreed with Gwatidzo’s remarks saying that a few students know about the policies and that the people that they are supposed to report to also harass them in the proses of reporting.
“We have policies and facilities where one can report if he or she is sexually harassed but a few know it and the other issue is that no action is taken after reporting.
“Even if you report that a lecturer asked me for a thigh for a mark there is no response and those who we are supposed to report to are the ones that harass us again,” said the student.
A lecturer said the students are too relaxed and playful such that they do not concentrate on their studies and end up paying lecturers in form of sex to get marks and pass their modules.
“Our students are sometimes too lazy, they are always looking for an easy way out and they go to lecturers and ask them for marks while they pay in kind.
“Some of our female students go around half naked and they are so cunning to and extent of going to lecturers and offer them sex in return for better results,” said the lecturer.