There is increase in politically motivated violence against women in Zimbabwe, manifesting as rape and sexual assault, direct violence and hate speech, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (The Forum) has said.
This observation is made in light of the 16 days of activism that runs from November 25 until December 10, under the theme: “Unite! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls’, which the Forum said provides an opportunity to reflect on the milestone achieved in combating violence and identifying gaps in pursuit of a violence free environment for females.
“Violence against women women and girls accordingly remains one of the most prevalent and pervasive human rights violations,” said the Forum and gave examples of how women particularly those involved in politics and human rights have been ‘targeted.’
“Examples include the September 13, 2023 arrest of newly elected CCC MP for Sunningdale Maureen Kademaunga on attempted murder charges. Kademunga spent the night in police custody but was subsequently released after legal intervention from the Forum.”
The Forum said police have to date not publicly retracted the unfounded allegations made against Kademaunga.
“On September 14, 2023, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) newly elected Harare City Deputy Mayor, Kudzai Kadzombe, was arrested and charged with assaulting a Zanu PF member in Marlborough during the 2023 harmonised elections in aggravating circumstances,” said the organisation.
The Forum noted in Zimbabwe, there is increase in politically motivated violance against women which manifest as “rape, sexual assault, direct violence and hate speech.”
“An example is an incident in which an opposition party CCC poling agent during August 23 and 24 alleged she was raped by suspected member of Zanu PF affiliate, Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ) after she refused to accept a US$150 bribe to leave the polling station in Muzarabani to pave way for vote rigging,” claimed the organisation.
“(The polling agent) was detained at the Marlborough Police Station and was released on free bail after she appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court on September 15, 2023.”
Ongoing threats of harassment and intimidation aimed at female human rights defenders have also been observed, said the Forum.
This was recorded through the “increased surveillance and harassment of former Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) Programme Director Charity Hodzi by suspected state security and law enforcement agents at her home,” said the Forum.
“Women also face psychological violence and vicarious trauma as seen through the grotesque ordeal that the wife of jailed Job Sikhala has had to endure from the time her husband was arrested on 14 June 2022.”
The Forum said Ellen Sikhala broke down while giving a moving testimony of how tough life has been for her and her children without her husband who was the family’s primary breadwinner.
“This occurred while she was speaking at a the launch of the report, ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied (Persecution by Prosecution)’ facilitated by Southern African Human Rights Defenders (SAHRDN), the Forum and Civic Space Network and Political Prisoners in Africa,” stated the organisation.
Since the human cost of violence against women and girls is priceless and cannot be underscored, the Forum is encouraging the government to pay due cognisance to the provision of the Universal declaration of Human Rights Defenders that provides specific protections to human rights defenders by ending harassment, ill treatment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest of women human rights rights defenders, activists and political figures.
“Make sure there is commitment of the Executive and Judiciary arms of government in effectively enforcing anti-VAW and GBV laws and to do so without fear, favour or prejudice. Expedite effective mechanisms that ensure implementation of Section 56 (2) of the 2013 Constitution to facilitate the prioritisation of gender sensitive policies in all spheres of life,” said the Forum.
The Forum also encouraged traditional and religious leaders to use their positions of significant influence within their communities to make sure that child marriages were effectively eradicated
“Encourage political parties to show genuine political will to promote equality and strive to meet the gender equality mark in representation operationalising the zebra representation of women in the nomination process during elections. We also encourage members of the society to discard norms, beliefs and attitudinal patterns that aid, enable or perpetuate instances of GBV against women and girls,” summed the Forum.