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Female mine workers – colleagues not sex objects

13 August, 2015Women working in South African mines are subject to sexual harassment and abuse from male colleagues, says Phumeza Mgengo from IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Speaking at conference addressing health and safety in mining in South Africa on 7 August, Phumeza Mgengo, who is national secretary of the women’s section at NUM, said:

"We as women are viewed as sex objects in most cases. If women are given tasks which require them to bend [over], your middle area is exposed and that leads to sexual harassment.”

She told participants that women are complaining of abuse and discrimination from their co-workers in mining:

"When they [men] see us, they don't see colleagues, they see sex objects."

South Africa’s mining industry has been marred by acts of violence against women. In March this year, a woman was raped at the Thembelani mine in Rustenburg and in December last year, a male contract worker was convicted of the brutal rape and murder of female miner, Pinky Mosiane, who was working underground at Anglo Platinum’s Khomanani mine in 2012.

IndustriALL’s director of mining, Glen Mpufane, said:

“Sexual violence against women is widespread and unreported by victims due to fear of reprisals, intimidation and losing their jobs.

According to official figures, the number of women working in mining has risen from six per cent of the workforce at the beginning of 2008 to 16 per cent at the end of 2104. However, women are underrepresented in all hierarchical positions.

“Discrimination against women is deeply rooted and demands change,” added Mpufane.

In one month’s time, Phumeza Mgengo will speak about women’s health and safety in mining at IndustriALL’s World Women Conference in Austria on 15 and 16 September.