WOMEN’S RIGHTS WATCH 

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD

My Voice, Our Equal Future

11 October 2020

In the last decade, the world has been wowed by girl power like never before. From Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousefzou for her courage shown to promote the education of girls under extreme difficulty to environmental gladiator Greta Thurnberg, girls are making a significant new impact on our world. Zimbabwe also has its girl child heroes: motocross champion Tanya Muzinda; child prodigy Taida Mupara who is attending medical school at the tender age of 14. Girls are finding their voices which they have been denied for centuries. Girls are showing the world that once they are allowed to have a voice, they are can initiate change: change not only for the status of girls and women but for benefit the whole of humankind.

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On the 11th of October 2011, by Resolution 66/170, the United Nations General Assembly earmarked the day to be commemorated as International Day of the Girl Child. The day is also known as Girls Day. It echoes the blueprint for the advancement of progressive rights for women and girls established by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action exactly 25 years ago.
This Year’s Theme
This year, the theme for the day is “My voice, our equal future”. The theme is a call to recognise that in empowering the girl child, a better and more equal future is created not only for her but for the entire community. The theme highlights the importance of strengthening and bettering the life of the girl child. In changing her world today, we can transform the world for all tomorrow. When the conference in Beijing was held 25 years ago, governments promised girls all over the world that they would safeguard girls’ equal rights and ensure girls reached their full potential. The time to take stock of that progress has come.
The predicament of Girls in Zimbabwe
According to Relief Web [said to be the largest humanitarian information portal in the world with its parent organisation being United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] there are about 130 million girls of school going age world-wide who do not attend school. This number is predicted to rise by 11 million by year end due to the long-term effects of COVID-19. According to The Borgen Project [a non-profit organisation the focus of which is to bring political attention to extreme poverty in the world] Zimbabwe is going backwards when it comes to the enrolment of girls in school. The organisation says this is because of the increase in rural poverty rates causing parents to opt to educate their boy children over their girl children. Furthermore, according to both Relief Web and Zimstat, 20% of the children in Harare are believed to be child labourers. A great number of these children are often taken into domestic work as childminders or housemaids. According to UNICEF data and Girls Not Brides data, 32% of girls in Zimbabwe are married before the age of 18 and 4% are married before the age of 15. The story of the girl child’s success is cut short by such practices. They show how vulnerable they are and even such achievements that have been made are disproportionately affected by factors such as Covid-19 and economic recession.
Laws that Affect Girls in Zimbabwe
Under Zimbabwean law, girls have the right to basic education under the Constitution. Most recently under the new Education Act, girls have the right to attend school after pregnancy. It is important that lawmakers be commended for this effort at this point, it allows for girls that get pregnant to be able to continue with their education and so give them a chance to better their own lives. ZimStat however notes that about 1.2 million children end up being turned away from school as a result of not being able to afford school fees.
The Next 25 years
Most societies have for centuries suppressed equal opportunities for the girl child. The statistics that we have highlighted above indicate that there is a lot more that needs to be done when it comes to empowering the girl child and allowing her to have a voice towards her future. We, therefore, call on all players – from Churches to the Ministry of Youth to the Ministry of Health and Child Care – to make sure that the next 25 years for the girl child need to be better than the last 25. Change in educating and uplifting the girl child needs not only to be on paper but must be backed by real and practical effort and results.


As we commemorate this day and celebrate girl heroes, let us take time to remember the girls that are uncelebrated and often unseen. Those that have forfeited education in order to support their families and young siblings and those that have been forced down a path with no future for them. May we all realise that it is our duty to keep the dream of the girl child alive and that by giving her a voice and an equal future we are enriching our nation for generations. May the efforts of the 30 000 Beijing Human Rights defenders never go to waste.
Veritas is dedicated to ensuring that girls and women and all their supporters have access to information which directly affects their rights and tells them where they can seek help: www.veritaswomen.net is an interactive platform both provides information and answer to specific questions. Veritas encourages girls and their mothers, brothers, and fathers to use it as a resource.

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Silibaziso Mlotshwa v District Administrator, Hwange .O and Saunders Mlotshwa

26 August 2020

The Facts

This case concerns the succession of women into chieftainship. Chief Nyangayezizwe Munthu Mlotshwa of Jembezi Hwange District in Matebeleland North passed away in 2014. He had three daughters and no male offspring but according to tradition, the male child inherits the chiefdom.

Silibaziso Mlotshwa (the applicant) the chief’s eldest daughter was sidestepped for the nomination of the chieftainship in favor of her uncle Saunders Mhlotswa (2nd Respondent) the late chief’s brother by the District Administrator (1st Respondent) solely on the basis of gender.

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Question for Determination

The applicant sought a mandamus to compel the District Administrator to recognise the validity of her nomination and the court had to determine the justice of omitting her name. Under Section 3 of the Traditional Leader’s Act, the District Administration submits nominations of candidates to the President for chieftainship appointments when vacancies arise.

The Rationale

The court considered the constitutional provisions of human dignity and equality. Sections 17, 56, and 80 outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender.

The Decision

The exclusion of the applicant and nomination of the 2nd Respondent was deemed void. The District Administrator was ordered to reconvene the process within 60 days of the order thereof.

Short Analysis

For decades women all over the country have been discriminated against simply for being women. From inheritance practices to leadership traditions, women have often not been allowed to have a say in these affairs. Zimbabwean traditions are largely patriarchal in form and nature so this judgment marks a turning point for ruling that tradition is not above the Constitution. Traditional customs have to be aligned with the Constitution.

Judge Takuva sitting at the High Court in Bulawayo stressed the tenets of non discrimination, equality, and dignity. He stated that in spite of the tradition of predominantly male leadership, no culture or tradition in modern-day Zimbabwe should prevent a woman from becoming a chief or at least being nominated for it. While the judgment pertains only to nomination it is a step towards affirming women’s rights in chieftainship succession.

This judgment recognizes that women are human beings first and deserve equal opportunities in all spheres including in traditional and customary life. Silibizaso Mlotshwa was quoted saying “No one chooses to be born male or female as such we should not be judged on the things we do not have control over. Every human being should be given the opportunity to prove his or her worth”.

Conclusion

At the time of writing the appointment of the Chief in Jembezi had not yet been made. Nevertheless, it is pleasing to know that there is a possibility of the appointment of a female chief.

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Govati Mhora v Emmaculata Mhora 

16 July 2020

The Facts

This was a Supreme Court case to decide the rights of a party who had not made direct contributions in the acquisition of matrimonial property. The parties were customarily married in 1970 and had four children who were all majors at the time of the divorce so maintenance was not an issue. They solemnized their marriage according to the African Marriages Act in 1971 and the Marriage Act Chapter 5:11 in 2005. During the subsistence of their marriage, the husband who was the appellant married another woman under civil law in 1982 while the customary marriage with the respondent subsisted. The polygamous arrangement subsisted for 22 years until the appellant and the 2nd wife divorced in 2004. After the 2nd wife’s departure, the Appellant and Respondent married under the Marriage Act Chapter 5:11 in 2005 after 35 years of customary marriage. After 47 years of marriage, the Respondent filed for divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

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The Question For Determination

The Appellant purchased the immovable property which was the subject of the dispute without any direct contribution by the Respondent. Despite that, the High Court had decided that the Respondent was still entitled to a 50% share of the immovable property. The Supreme Court had to determine whether or not the High Court had misdirected itself in making that decision.

The Rationale

The High Court had placed weight on the Respondent’s indirect contributions. She had taken care of the extended family including 9 children being her own, the Appellant and 2nd wives, and the ones the Appellant had out of wedlock. The court also considered that she had made other non-financial contributions to the marriage for five decades. Her age was also a consideration. She was 65 years old and the chances of getting employment were non-existent.  Her financial circumstances were different from the Appellants. He was drawing a pension and even managing to live independently and separately from the matrimonial home.

The Decision

The Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s decision that the immovable property is shared equally. The house was to be evaluated and sold with the net profit divided equally or either party could buy the other out.

Short Analysis

The default marriage regime in Zimbabwe has been out of community of property since 1929. Property is owned exclusively in the name of the party in whom it is registered.  Neither spouse is liable for the debts of the other spouse except if the debt was jointly acquired. The judgment is revolutionary because while the Court upholds exclusive rights to property it also recognises that there are circumstances where its strict application can have adverse effects on married parties. The Court applied the equality principle and complied with Section 17 of the Constitution which espouses nondiscrimination in marriage and equality between the sexes. Married women in Zimbabwe have traditionally been discriminated against and disadvantaged in matrimonial property distribution. In many instances, they are housewives with minimal income while men are employed and financially capacitated to acquire property. The Supreme Court placed considered that taking care of the home and tending to children is also an equally valuable contribution.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court cautioned that this judgment should not be regarded as a precedent for all matrimonial distribution cases. Each case should still be dealt with on its own merits within the context of its own unique circumstances. Nevertheless, the judgment is important because it ushers in a revolutionary way of valuing women’s indirect contributions in the acquisition of matrimonial property.

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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DURING THE LOCKDOWN

6 April 2020

During this lockdown period, women are at much greater risk of domestic violence than ever before because they are stuck together in permanent confinement with their perpetrators.  The lockdown in Zimbabwe will last between 30 March and 19 April 2020, and perhaps longer.  Living so closely together for an extended period exacerbates tensions between couples which increases the likelihood of domestic violence.  The risk is much higher where there is an existing history of abuse.

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Countries throughout the world are recording spikes in the incidence of domestic violence.  In France domestic violence has risen by 36% – and two cases of femicide were reported since the beginning of the lockdown.  The French government will be paying for safety shelters in places such as hotels. Temporary counseling centers are being set up inside shops to make it convenient for women to access them when they go out to buy essential supplies.  In the United Kingdom the National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown.  A special emergency number has been provided during the lockdown and police have been trained to look out for domestic violence distress calls.  More places of refuge are being set up and reports to the police can result in the abuser being removed from the home.  In Australia there has been a 75% rise in Google searches relating to help for domestic violence since the start of the lockdown.  The Australian government has provided a US$142 million fund to tackle domestic violence.

 

Zimbabwe Initiatives

There are no data for Zimbabwe yet but some women’s organisations have set up good initiatives to help women.

Veritas Women continues to provide advisory services on its platforms to interact with women who need help or general information.  Veritas Women is available on SMS and WhatsApp 0774261114, Twitter @veritaszimwomen and on Facebook VeritasWomen.  Veritas Women platforms are open during the lockdown and will continue to distribute essential information and guidance on domestic violence and other legal issues which affect women.

Musasa, Adult Rape Clinic [ARC] and ZWLA have opened dedicated hotlines to assist women seeking help for domestic violence during the lockdown.  The hotline assistance initiative by Musasa, ARC and ZWLA is all the more welcome because victims can access medical or legal services. Safe houses and shelter can be arranged for those in need.  Roots offers a place of refuge  [Contact details see below]

Police stations continue to be open during the lockdown and victims are encouraged to report incidences of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Includes Being Thrown Out of the Home

The Domestic Violence Act Chapter 5:16 provides for protection from domestic violence and relief for victims.  Domestic violence is defined as meaning any unlawful act, omission or behaviour which results in death or the direct infliction of physical, sexual or mental injury.  Acts of domestic violence include physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, malicious damage to property, and forcible entry into the victim’s residence where the parties do not share the same residence. It also includes depriving someone or hindering them from accessing or having a reasonable share of the use of the facilities associated with the victim’s place of residence.  It is common for one partner to drive the other partner away from the house and lock them out or impose restrictions to their access to household facilities.  If a woman is thrown out during the lockdown period she is even more stranded, so practical measures to stop this are needed now more than ever before.

Need for Government to Do More

The Government should be aware of the problem of increased domestic violence during the lockdown.  More facilities should be made available, and more information on the problem and on where help is available should be distributed nation-wide through government channels.  NGO’s play their part but basically the Government is responsible for the welfare of its people and we call upon Government Ministries to see that more is done to protect those who are exposed to domestic violence during this period of lockdown.. 

 

ARE YOU IN NEED OF
SHELTER?
If you or anyone you know is being abused during this #lockdownzim
period we have a place for you at ROOTS. Gender Based Violence is an
everyday reality and also in times of crisis such as #Covid-19

Contact Us

Nyasha 0775900840 Tilda 0714980568 Junior 0772263146 Sandra 0782250410

Helping women and children affected by domestic violence

RAPE AND FEMICIDE

TRIGGER WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTENT MAY CONTAIN HARMFUL CONTENT THAT MAY BE PSYCHOLOGICALLY TRIGGERING

9 SEPTEMBER 2019

At the beginning of September 2019, the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana in South Africa shook the world.  She was a 19-year-old female student who had innocently gone to the Post Office to collect a package and to the shock of the whole world, never returned alive. At her funeral, her mother was quoted to have said, ” I am sorry I warned you about many other places but never the post office”. This incident started an important conversation on rape and safety of women across the world. Conversations which beg for us to question, how safe is a woman in Zimbabwe when it comes to rape and femicide? Can the claims of Zimbabwean men really being “better” than South African counterparts be taken as fact? How can we practically protect the constitutional rights of dignity and integrity that everyone has?

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Definitions and law

  • Sexual Assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. Attempted rape and inappropriate touching are included in sexual assault.
  • Rape refers to unwanted sexual intercourse and or any other forms of sexual penetration without the victim’s consent. According to the Sexual Offences Act in Zimbabwe, rape further constitutes any penetration with a foreign object into the anus or genitalia of a person or engaging in culliningus or fellatio without the consent of that person.
  • Rape Culture is a sociological concept where rape is normalized in society due to gender and sexuality. rape culture can include things such as victim-blaming e.g. asking a rape victim ” what were you wearing? were you intoxicated?” and other such questions that often deter rape survivors from coming forward with their cases.

Rape is not only a crime by domestic law but by CEDAW, the Maputo Protocol, the African Charter, and various United Nations Security Council Protocols. By accession, the Zimbabwean government like many others has committed itself internationally to the protection of women and children and any other vulnerable groups.

According to the first quarterly report of Zimstat 2019, there were 636 reported cases of rape countrywide in January and 625 reported rapes in February. Breaking these figures down, it means there was an average of 20.5 rapes a day in January and 22.3 a day in February. Overall this means that there is roughly 1 rape per hour in the country.

Just comparing the numbers without cross-examining them, it really appears to be the case that Zimbabwe is safer. The truth on the matter is, that is not the whole truth. South Africa, named the rape capital of the world, has up to 118 rapes a day. 51% of the 57.7 million people in South Africa are women.  That means of the 29.427 million women in South Africa, 4 are raped every hour. Zimbabwe on the other hand has a population estimate of about 17.3 million people of which 51% are women.  This means that of the 8.8 million women in the nation, 1 is at risk of rape every hour.  These statistics only sample rape and not killings after rape or anything of the sort. The simple answer to the above question is : no, Zimbabwe is only relatively safer but cannot be considered safe at all.

The difference in the two countries is that in South Africa a significant portion of the rape cases result in the death of the victim as opposed to the known Zimbabwean ones.

As women, it is important that we become bolder and be able to step out and speak out against perpetrators in our society. Traditionally, Zimbabwean women have been taught to bear the brunt of any and all forms of abuse but the time has come to break the cycle and protect our own. How is it that every one of us knows a person who has been raped or attempted to be raped yet no one knows a rapist? Where possible, speak to young men you have influence over, teach them about the importance of respecting women and their bodies and how nothing, neither marriage nor lobola nor a short skirt, ever entitles a man to a woman’s body.  Speaking out and educating people does not mean lashing out at and bashing people around you but all-important conversations begin at home and in the community.

Where you are aware of an ongoing case or you yourself have been a victim of such violence against your body contact :

Note: it is advisable to seek medical treatment within 72 hours of the rape.

If a rape is reported to the police they are obliged to see you get medical advice [see under Police]

Adult Rape Clinic Parirenyatwa Hospital Ward C9 Ph 0242 793572 0775672770/ 733406292

Family Support Trust Phone 0712 404 416 08644081609 077436016 http://www.fst.co.zw

South African social media users have managed to catapult us into a very important conversation regarding the protection and well being of women in and around the country. Let us not end the conversations here on these platforms but spread awareness and help where possible. Zimbabwe cannot be said to be a safer space for women on these matters than any other country. 1 rape per hour is 1 rape too many.  We, therefore, call upon every single Zimbabwean, male or female, to stand up against rape culture. To stop the catcalling, to stop the inappropriate groping, and to help make girls safer throughout the nation.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police is called to be more vigilant in rape cases and to be more welcoming to those reporting such cases whilst the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small, and Medium Enterprises are encouraged to show more engagement and compliance with International law on the matter.

Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied. If you want to contact Veritas, have any questions or wish to subscribe or unsubscribe please email [email protected]

If you are looking for legislation please look for it on www.veritaszim.net

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