The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) has opened investigations into allegations of sexual harassment, sexual abuse and exploitation of women in the football sector in Zimbabwe.
ZGC Chair Commissioner Margaret Sangarwe-Mukahanana said that over the past few months, sports fans, football players and Zimbabweans from all walks of life have been deeply troubled by allegations of sexual harassment, sexual abuse and exploitation of women in football.
Comm Sangarwe-Mukahanana said the sad allegations stem from complaints filed, especially by female referees.
“From the outset, we would like to commend these courageous women for being open about these issues, despite the stigma and intimidation that usually ensues when such allegations are brought forward,” she said.
“The complaints point to the prevalence of endemic discrimination and dehumanization of women within football refereeing and the wider football industry as emanating from the fact that for years the industry has been an enclave of men with limited participation of women.
“The facts indicate the prevalence of violations of women’s rights like sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and extortion in the form of sex for selection, such behavior hampers women’s participation and performance in sports.
“As a constitutional body mandated to ensure respect for the values of gender equality in all spheres of socio-economic activity, we take these allegations seriously. The full realization of gender equality should involve the full participation of women on an equal basis with men in the sports sector.”
Comm Sangarwe-Mukahanana said creating safe spaces for women and girls to participate without fear of being preyed upon, discriminated against and dehumanized by predators who were powerful figures was key to achieving gender equality.
She said the role of sport in uniting people, promoting healthy lifestyles and the economic benefits associated with participation could not be overstated.
The commission had been a key observer of the sport’s challenges, including corruption, maladministration and a general downgrading of standards.
“These challenges and the resulting economic downturn pose serious gender dimensions,” she said.
“While we all hope that the footballing aspects of disputes will be dealt with conclusively by the various national, regional and international structures, we are working to address allegations of gender violations and engage various officials with the necessary infrastructure to promote the full participation of women on an equal basis with men in sport.
“The commission is preparing to investigate the said allegations in relation to its constitutional functions as codified in Section 246 (ai) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (No. 20) Amendment Act 2013, read in conjunction with part (iii) of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Act Chapter 10:31.
“These and other legal instruments, including international normative legal frameworks, give it the jurisdiction to investigate possible violations of gender rights in response to public complaints or on its own initiative.”
Comm Sangarwe-Muhanana said the ultimate aim of the inquiry was to ensure that injustices were redressed and various state and non-state actors involved in football affairs were urged to take action to clean up the sector soccer.
“We therefore call on members of the public with information or complaints of sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation within football structures to come and submit observations to the Gender Commission,” Commissioner Mukahanana – Sangarwe said. .
In the meantime, the Commission has launched knowledge products to inform stakeholders on topical gender issues.
ZGC has unveiled a book which includes “Report on Child Marriage”, “The Role of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission in Ending Child Marriage”, “Women in Politics”, Women in Leadership decision”, the Gender Observatory”, the Gender Audit” and the reports of the National Gender Forum (2015 – 2021), aimed at raising the voice of women from all sectors of influence.