THE Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council says it is saddened by the acquittal of former Game Stores Zambia general manager Vincent Palan on charges of indecent assault and sexual abuse.
Briefing the press in Lusaka, NGOCC chairperson Sara Longwe, however, congratulated Game Stores employee Mukamuluti Mwila on her bold decision to report the matter to the police.
“The Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council is saddened with the court decision to acquit former Game Stores Zambia general manager Mr Palan of the charges of indecent assault and sexual abuse,” Longwe said.
“This case, even if it has gone against her (Mwila), has however exposed the inadequacy of our laws in as far as the protection of women and girls against sexual harassment and indecent assault [is concerned].”
She said the outcome of the case had demonstrated that there was need for continued advocacy for the amendment of the gender based violence laws so that they could be more protective of vulnerable women and girls from sexual harassment and indecent assault.
Longwe said with due respect to the court decision, the Palan case had just exposed the existence of indecent assault and sexual harassment in workplaces in Zambia.
“We are aware that cases of sexual harassment and abuse in workplaces are rampant. There is clearly need for organisations to develop gender workplace policies with clear guidelines to avert sexual harassment. Clearly, the sexual offences as provided for in the Penal Code need to be reviewed so as to protect women against sexual harassment and sexual abuse,” she said.
“As has transpired in the case of the people against Mr Palan, it is not easy to provide evidence against perpetrators of sexual offences. Mostly, these sexual offences are committed in ‘privacy’ and it may be difficult to adduce evidence, especially in cases of sexual harassment where physical evidence is not present, as it is the word of the victim against the abuser.”
Longwe said those that sexually abused women would continue committing sexual offences which the current Penal Code does not address.
She urged the Zambia Law Development Commission and Ministry of Justice to expedite the review of the Penal Code as it relates to sexual offences.
Longwe encouraged Mwila to appeal the judgment of the magistrates’ court so that the High Court can address the matter.
“NGOCC and its member organisations, on behalf of the women of Zambia, will not sit idle and watch women being abused by men in their workplaces,” said Longwe.