WOMEN’S RIGHTS WATCH

DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD

[16th June 2024]

Education for All Children in Africa: The Time is Now

The highest prison walls in the universe are not made of bricks or stone but of ignorance – Anon

On the 16th June 1976, South African high-school students protested for better education but were met with lethal force.  What began as a peaceful demonstration became a day of mourning as authorities opened fire on children.  That day is now memorialised by the African Union as the International Day of the African Child.  Today, 48 years since the so-called Soweto Uprising, we take time to raise awareness of the challenges faced by African children.

This year’s theme is:

“Education for All Children in Africa : The time is now”

The theme remembers the children who protested on the 16th June 1976, and it is as true now as it was then.  Education is not just a right, it is the foundation for a brighter future for all.  It empowers children to reach their full potential, break the cycle of poverty and contribute meaningfully to society.  The theme reminds governments around the Continent to hasten the processes and policies bringing about universal realisation of the right to education.  The time for action is now.

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Educating Africa’s children

It is estimated that Africa has 650 million children now, and the number is expected to rise to 1 billion by 2050.  This means that about 43,6 per cent of all people now living on the African continent are children.  According to the African Union up to 60 per cent of children between the ages of 15-17 are out of school as a result of wars and conflict, child marriages, teenage pregnancies, culture and other causes.  Africa’s population is the youngest on the planet, so lagging behind in children’s education will have devastating effects on the future of the continent.

In Zimbabwe the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education reported that in 2021 there were 6 694 618 children of school-going age in the country, but the actual school enrolment for that year was 3 986 891.  This means that over 2,7 million children were out of school – and one can only wonder what the number is in 2024.  UNICEF does report that Zimbabwe performs well in net enrolment at the primary school level, with 9 out of 10 children enrolled.  Enrolment rates drop however at secondary level and there are disparities between rural and urban areas.

The Right to Education in Zimbabwe

Children have the right to education given by sections 19(2)(d), 75 and 81(1)(f) of the Constitution.  The three sections give children a right to both formal and informal education, covering culture, general knowledge and necessary life skills.  Education plays a pivotal role in the upbringing of children as individuals and in the overall development of the nation.

For the right to education to be realised, the “4 As” of education must be present – education must be:

  • Accessible, i.e. accessible to all children including children with disabilities both mental and physical, pregnant learners and children in remote areas.
  • Adaptable, i.e. it must evolve with the times.  Curricula should address the changing needs of society, keep up with technology and address specific concerns of industries.
  • Available, i.e. there should be a sufficient number of schools, teachers that are adequately paid and resources that meet the needs of the school-going population.
  • Acceptable, i.e. . it must be relevant to the current times, culturally sensitive and of good quality.

Are we are doing enough to make sure that we retain our title of being the most educated African nation?  Does our education meet the “4-As” test, and if it does not, what are we doing to make sure it does?

Action Points

If we are to realise the right to education in Zimbabwe, the following needs to be done (the list is not exhaustive):

  • The funds allocated to education must be fully disbursed.  According to a ZIMCODD report in 2024, the Government appropriated 17,7 per cent of the annual budget to education, representing an increase from 14,2 per cent in 2023.  However, ZIMCODD noted with concern that this does not necessarily translate into spending on education as the government has a history of not releasing budgeted funds for education.
  • The Ministry of Primary and Secondary education should work on expanding access to early childhood education, which is crucial for cognitive development.
  • The relevant Ministries and departments should build and renovate schools, especially in peri-urban areas which tend to have a high population of children.
  • The government and all stakeholders should implement policies to address disparities in access to education between rural and urban learners.
  • Every citizen should raise awareness of the importance of education for children.

Conclusion

As we commemorate the Day of the African Child, let us remember our commitment as a nation to leave no one behind, and specifically to leave no child behind.  Both nationally and internationally we have committed ourselves to realising the right to education.  The government, parents and all concerned individuals have a part to play in making sure that our children are afforded a chance to develop their potential and make their full contribution to society.

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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

[8 March 2024]

#Inspire inclusion: Count Her In: Accelerating Gender Equality Through Economic Empowerment.

When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion we forge a better world. And when women themselves are inspired to be included there is a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment.  

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day 2024 inspires the inclusion of women in the economy.  It is a call to purposefully forge a more inclusive world for women because various systemic obstacles impede women from participating fully and equally in the economy. Gender equality can only be achieved through economic empowerment becausewithout economic power, equality of the sexes is impossible. Women need to be in meaningful economic activities where their contributions are fairly valued and rewarded.  Excluding women from participating fully in the economy deprives the economy of half its potential because women are half of the economic equation.

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Inclusion is about embracing and celebrating the diversity of women because wealth is bestowed in different abilities and qualities. No two women are alike even though women have shared experiences and similarities. Inclusion means appreciating womens’ differences in race, age, ability, body image, individual differences etc. This women’s day the world is called upon to include all women in all areas of human endeavour like sport, education, career development, arts, science, technology, boardrooms, the military, politics in everything and everywhere. Including women in the economy is done through positive actions like

  • Recruiting, retaining and developing female talent
  • Supporting women and girls into leadership, decision making, business and science and technology (STEM)
  • Designing and building infrastructure that meets the needs of women and girls
  • Helping women and girls make informed decisions about their health
  • Involving women and girls in sustainable agriculture and food security
  • Providing women and girls with access to quality education and training
  • Promoting sporting, creative, artistic talent and women and girls etc

Zimbabwean women are very active economically despite the various hurdles they face in participating fully and equally. 70% of the world’s poor people are women so inevitably the majority of Zimbabwean women are poor and economically disadvantaged. Some of the barriers they face include restricted land rights, lack of access to financial resources and limited access to political and economic decision-making platforms. Where resources are limited families still prioritise the education of boys over girls the result being early marriages for girls and perpetuation of the poverty cycle for women.

Zimbabwe has made some positive economically inclusive strides for  women although they still fall short of the required minimum. Examples include the establishment of the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank in 2018. It was established to cater for the needs of women in business who require access to capital because the majority of them have no collateral security. Failure to access business loans and capital bars women from participating in profitable economic activities. The Women’s Bank has funding models that are attainable to women on the periphery of the economy who wish to be included.

Other positive inclusive actions are the establishment of the Women’s University in Africa and various empowerment associations in key economic areas like Business, Mining, Farming and Construction. These associations help to lift women up economically but the downside of is they usually benefit the same few privileged connected women from urban areas to the exclusion of women who live in rural areas.

The majority of rural women are economically active but usually live in conditions of poverty. Up to 67.7% of Zimbabwe’s population lives in rural areas with more than half being women and girls. Rural women play a significant role in food security economic activities. They are intimately engaged in land and natural resources management as subsistence and small to medium scale farmers, Despite the important economic roles they play they are largely excluded from profiting economically from those activities.  Rural women and girls have higher rates of child marriages, unreported domestic violence, limited healthcare and education facilities etc. Purposeful policies and actions are needed to include rural women in the economy if the upliftment of all women is sincere.  

                                        Conclusion

 International Women’s Day is a day for collective global activism for those committed to women’s equality and advocating a better world for women. Veritas aligns itself with this cause and congratulates the women of the world for their contributions to global human development. Veritas particularly encourages all women of Zimbabwe to never stop aspiring for more and for better economic outcomes for themselves.

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INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

[25 November 2023]

When we invest in women and girls, we are investing in the people who can invest in everyone else”, Melinda Gates.

Introduction

 Veritas Women joins Zimbabwe and the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Significantly the day marks the beginning of the annual16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence which culminates in the Human Rights Day on the 10th of December. The global campaign offers an opportunity to reflect on progress made with regards to elimination of violence against women, call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination in protecting women against violence.

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UNiTE! Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls

UNiTE calls on governments, development actors, civil society, women’s organisations, young people, the private sector and the entire globe to join forces in addressing violence against women and girls .The focus should be on different prevention strategies which stop violence from occurring in the first place, This will leverage key global normative and advocacy platforms to build momentum in collective efforts to prevent violence against women. Every effort invested in preventing violence against women is a step towards a safer, more equal and prosperous world.

Violence against Women and Girls

Violence against women and girls remains one of the most prevalent and pervasive human rights violations in the world. Even though countries have passed legislation to curb violence against women and girls; weak enforcement and discriminatory social norms remain significant problems. Approximately 736 million women worldwide, or nearly one in three, have experienced intimate relationship violence, non-partner sexual assault, or both at some point in their lives. The COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, and climate change have further exacerbated existing challenges and generated new and emerging threats. Economic insecurity, disrupted livelihoods and limited social protection continue to increase women’s and girls’ vulnerability to violence.

Digital Spaces and Violence

The digital era presents a double-edged sword for women and girls as it has become the new frontier for gender based violence. For women and girls, no place is completely safe. Globally, nearly 60 per- cent of women have experienced some form of digital violence online. They are bombarded with toxic social media posts, hate speech and violent content, or have their images sexualized, distorted and shared without their permission. Not only does online violence dissuade women and girls from participating in digital spaces but it also contributes to persistent gender segregation in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and ICT sectors.

There is need for urgent investment in women and girls by recognising and defining cyber violence for what it is; It is a gendered and intersectoral problem which calls for urgent need in shifting from gender blind definitions to gender based ones to protect women and girls.

UNiTE! Eliminating Gender Based Violence

Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations perpetrated on humanity. In Zimbabwe, forty- percent of women aged between 15 and 49 years  experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner whereas less than forty percent sought help. The long term impacts of violence impinge on sustainable development and gains that have been made towards achieving gender equality. Gender based violence does not only affect the individual, it wreaks havoc on family ties, societal progress and endangers economic growth.

Zimbabwe has made notable progress in the fight against gender based violence. The Domestic Violence Act passed into law in 2007 gives legal protection to survivors of gender based violence encouraging more women to report cases of gender based violence .There is need to UNiTE!  Invest To Prevent Violence against Women and Girls by educating citizens about rights and responsibilities with regards to violence.

Join us! 16 days of activism against gender based violence

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women marks the UNiTE campaign of activism against gender based violence from 25 November to 10 December—. Advancing collective efforts in the fight against gender based violence is critical for safety of women and girls. The UNiTE campaign calls for global action to increase awareness, advocacy efforts, to share knowledge and innovations to help end all types of violence against women and girls.

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INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD

11th October 2023

Invest in Girls’ Rights : Our Leadership, Our Well-being

World over, the 11th of October is celebrated as International day of the Girl Child.  The United Nations International Day was first celebrated in 2012 as a way to raise awareness about gender inequality and to advocate for girls’ rights and empowerment. The day focuses on challenges girls face and what steps can be taken to fulfil their human rights.

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Invest in Girls’ Right : Our Leadership, Our Well-being

The theme this year  is paired with a call by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to increase the budget for investments for adolescents by $1 billion world-wide. The UNICEF mentions that there is an urgent need for increased attention and resourcing for key areas which enable girls to realise their rights and achieve their full potential. It is a theme that calls on all nations to put their money where their mouth is.

Investing in girls’ rights  means to go a step further than just financial backing , it also means showing true political will in reforming rights for girls . It also means paying attention to gender parity laws when it comes to leadership so that young women and girls’ needs are not only put forward but so that those girls can be inspired to lead us in the future.

Zimbabwe’s Efforts to Protect Girls

Over the past decade, Zimbabwe has had two landmark judgments which were meant to change life for girls in Zimbabwe tremendously.  Both these cases were brought by Veritas in an effort to align child protection laws with the Constitution. In 2016, child marriages were banned by the Constitutional Court and in 2022, the age of consent was raised to 18 years].  Both judgments sought to address the unacceptable reality that still about 1 in 3 girls in Zimbabwe under the age of 18 is married.  This means that nearly one third of girls automatically do not finish school, do not explore childhood  and are stripped of opportunity and potential and the whole country will be impoverished as a consequence.

Although efforts have been made in amending the Marriages Act to raise the age of marriage to 18, the efforts to actually curtail child marriages have been disheartening.  Statistics show that since 2016, there has been very little change in the number of girls married before the age of 18 in the country.

The age of consent judgment passed last year, also faces similar lack of will as its predecessor to ban child marriages. In the judgment, the legislature had been tasked to amend certain provisions of the Criminal Law Code which are in contravention of s81(1)(e) of the Constitution which protects children from sexual exploitation.  This has not yet been done.  Last year, there were even multiple shocking reports in the media as children as young as 8 years were pregnant. 

Apart from sexual exploitation, girls in Zimbabwe also face other injustices such as child labour. According to the international organisation called Stop Child Labour at least 40% of Zimbabwe’s children are involved in one form of labour or another. Although the statistic is not specific to girls, it cannot be ignored that many domestic workers in the country are often girls below the age of 18.  This has become an unchallenged norm although it is in direct contravention of rights which bar child labour and promote education.

Conclusion

As we commemorate the Day of the Girl Child, we remember that girls are the future of the nation and should be treated with dignity and respect, allowed to be educated, and not abused by men especially older men, nor exploited by their families for lobola or cheap labour.  We call for serious commitment to the rights of the girl child by the government that is backed by action especially in the area of banning child marriages.

May we all commit wholeheartedly to protecting the rights of the girl child.

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DAY OF THE AFRICAN CHILD

[16 June 2023]

The Rights of The Child in The Digital Environment

Today, we join the rest of Africa in commemorating the Day of the African Child (DAC).

June 16th is significant in that, in 1976, over 10 000 children in Soweto marched against the poor quality of education they were receiving from the Apartheid government. The children also wanted to be taught in their native languages other than in Afrikaans. Their peaceful protest however soon turned into a violent day when they were met with heavy police resistance. It’s reported that up to 176 children lost their lives on that day. The tragedy became known as the Soweto Uprising.

In memory of this event, the African Union has set aside the 16th of June for African countries to assess their commitment to the rights and challenges that are faced by children across the continent.

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The Rights of the Child in the Digital Environment

This year’s theme recognises that there is a need to recognise children’s rights both offline and online. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has relied more on digital solutions than it has ever done before. According to the African Union, there are over 500 million internet users in Africa and the number is growing everyday.

The internet has provided invaluable opportunities for children to realise their rights such as education, association, expression and even the right to play.

There is however another side to this coin, the internet also poses a great risk for children as they need to be protected from online harm. Online harm can range from extortion, grooming exploitation to exposure to pornography.

The Digital Environment in Zimbabwe

With the coming in of the Continuous Assessment Learning Activities (CALA), Zimbabwean students are more reliant on the digital environment than ever before. CALA projects require for children to be online researching and therefore participating in the online life.

According to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), up to 72% of all children in Zimbabwe live in the rural areas- areas which do not readily have reliable internet connections, if they have network at all. The African Union further states that only 5% of children in Southern Africa have internet access at home. This means that although today we stand with the rest of Africa in promoting the rights of the child in the digital environment, we have one more step – to call on the Zimbabwean government to work towards providing internet access for all. Access and availability to the internet will enable children to realise their right to education and others.

Recently, Zimbabwe enacted the Cyber and Data Protection Act which amongst many other things, seeks to protect children in the digital environment. The Act criminalizes child pornography whether possession or production and also exposing children to child sexual abuse material. Although this is considered a progressive step, there is still need for Zimbabwe to become a state party to the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection. This will strengthen Zimbabwe’s efforts in data security.

Conclusion

As we commemorate the Day of The African Child, let us remember that we have committed as a country to leave no one behind. This means that no child must be left behind.

We therefore call upon the government to:

  • Immediately adopt and domesticate the Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection
  • Make internet and data available and accessible to all
  • Make regulations that declare educational sites as zero rated [not consume data] which will improve online access
  • Have rigorous monitoring of cyber crimes, paying special attention to crimes that infringe on the rights of the child

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UN INTERNATIONAL DAY 

Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

[IDAHOBIT]

17 May 2023

‘In a fair and just society, no one is left behind’ Violeta TOMIĆ, General Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI People

Every year, on the 17th of May, the world celebrates the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. The United Nations set aside the day on the 17th May 2005 after a year-long campaign which started in 2004 wherein various organisations and individuals came together and conceived the idea.  Originally, the day only recognised homophobia, with transphobia being added in 2009 and biphobia in 2015.  The 17th of May is significant because it was on this day in 1990, that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

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The purpose of the day

The purpose of the day is to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of violence, discrimination suffered by the LGBTIQ+ communities and how it impacts on human rights. This year’s theme ‘Together always: United in diversity’ is very appropriate in the Zimbabwean context where the mantra is ‘Leaving no one behind.’

UN Secretary-General António Guterres Message

As we mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, we face a stark fact. In every corner of the world, LGBTQI+ people continue to face violence, persecution, hate speech, injustice and even outright murder.  Meanwhile, retrograde laws continue to criminalize LGBTQI+ people around the world, punishing them for simply being who they are.   Each assault on LGBTQI+ people is an assault on human rights and the values we hold dear.  We cannot and will not move backwards.   The United Nations firmly stands with the LGBTQI+ community, and will continue working until human rights and dignity are a reality for all people.  I renew my call to all Member States to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and end the criminalization of consensual same-sex relations and transgender people. Being yourself should never be a crime. In keeping with this year’s theme — “Together Always: United in Diversity” — I call on the world to speak with one voice to eliminate the stigma, discrimination, harmful practices, and often deadly violence endured by LGBTQI+ people.  Human rights are non-negotiable. They belong to every member of the human family — no matter who they are or whom they love.  Let’s continue working to build a peaceful, just world in which all people are free and equal in dignity and rights.   

United Nations Resolutions to Mandate an Independent Expert

An Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity was mandated to explore ways to better protect persons who suffer from violence and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity by a Un Resolution on July 2019 and renewed in 2022.  The mandate is carried out through:

  1. Assessing implementation of human rights standards
  2. Identifying best practices and gaps
  3. Raising awareness of those issue
  4. Identifying and addressing the root cause of violence and discrimination
  5. Engaging in dialogue and consulting States and other relevant stakeholders to foster the protection of LGBT and gender diverse persons
  6. Facilitating and supporting the provision the provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity building to combat violence and discrimination.

International and Regional Obligations

At international level, Zimbabwe is a signatory to various international instruments such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  These conventions are explicit on the right of every person to life, privacy, health, equality before the law inclusive of the right to freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination, violence and torture.

At regional level, Zimbabwe is a signatory to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) which all emphasise the aspect of equality, non-discrimination, privacy and health. The Maputo Protocol goes further to guarantee elimination of all forms of discrimination against women irrespective of sexual orientation.

The Constitution and the Law

The Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees a wide range of fundamental rights such as the right to equality and non-discrimination, right to personal security, right to human dignity, right to privacy and freedom from torture.

The non-discrimination clause extends to nationality, race, colour, tribe sex, age, pregnancy, disability, class, language, gender, opinion, culture amongst other grounds but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The LGBTIQ+ community continues to experience human rights violations especially discrimination and violence.

Conclusion

As we take time to reflect on the true essence of humanity from an African perspective, there is need to put the human first before the sexual orientation or gender identity to uphold the true meaning of ‘ubuntu’. We must respect humanity in all its variety and implement real change to achieve equality.  Human rights are not for some people, human rights are for all people.

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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

[8 March 2023]

    “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”

When we invest in women and girls, we are investing in the people who can invest in everyone else”, Melinda Gates.

Annually, the 8th of March has been set aside as International Women’s Day. The day offers an opportunity to reflect on progress made in terms of gender equality, to celebrate acts of courage and determination in promoting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces contributing to the history and development of their countries and communities. VERITAS joins all those who have chosen to contribute and lead the charge on bridging the digital gap on widening economic and social inequalities under the theme #Digital: Innovation and technology for gender equality”

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“DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”

This year’s theme advances gender equality in the context of innovation and technology. It is important to protect the the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and information and communication technologies ICT.                             

Gender Equality and Technology

Zimbabwe has committed itself to ending all discrimination against women and girls. This was done by pledging to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2015) and the African Union Agenda 2063.

The Intel’s Report [ Intel is a world renowned company in the design and manufacturing of essential technologies]  states that men are twice more likely to have access to the internet than women. Bridging the digital divide in Zimbabwe will require much more than merely improving information across communication technologies [ICT]. Gender mainstreaming ensures that both men and women are integrated into the design and implementation of ICT programmes so that all genders benefit equally.

Current legal position in Zimbabwe

 The inclusion of the founding values and principles in the 2013 Constitution set the foundation for crafting laws addressing digital rights. The Constitution of Zimbabwe 2013 recognises the equality of all human beings and gender equality .Section 17 (1) implores the state to promote gender balance and full participation of women in all spheres of the Zimbabwean society. The state must take all measures needed to ensure that both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level.

Digital transformation and innovation are currently not balanced in the socio-cultural and traditional beliefs . The constitutional inclusion not only ensures protection of digital rights, but it places digital issues at the same level of concern as other human rights. Currently, the main legislation in Zimbabwe includes Cyber and Data Protection Act [Chapter 12:07] and the Postal and Telecommunications Act chapter [12:05] 

Bridging the Digital Gender Divide

Reasons for the digital gender gap include inequitable access to education and harmful social norms that exist in the “offline” world and impact digital realities and potential benefits for women and girls. Digital literacy has become almost as important as traditional literacy. Equipping girls with digital skills through prioritising education in ICT subjects can help them to thrive in economies where routine work has been automated and digital skills are prized.

Empowering women and girls through the provision of meaningful access to the internet and digital technologies could undoubtedly provide them with opportunities to start businesses, and to access education, health, social and financial services. It could also be a powerful tool to enable women and girls to participate in governance, to associate, assemble and express themselves on digital rights issues that are dear to them and to develop relevant content for their empowerment. There is need to increase women’s representation in leadership and decision-making roles within the ICT sector.  

In order to bridge the gender digital divide, African governments need to urgently implement legislative policies, administrative and practical measures to address the existing structural inequalities in income, education, and employment opportunities. Closing the digital gender gap will require that states  share gender and age disaggregated data on access and use of ICT in order to help track and evaluate progress shaping  policies geared towards promoting the enjoyment of digital rights by women and girls on the continent.

                                                Conclusion

Advancing gender equality in the context of innovation and technology is critical for potential growth and development. Investing in girls and women in the digital space means investing in everyone else.

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COURT WATCH

[29 September 2022]

S v Joana Mamombe,Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova

The trio is charged with communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the State as they allege they were arrested and abducted in May 2020. The trio first appeared before the court on the 12th of June 2020. Netsai Marova however, is on the run and in turn, has not appeared in court with the other two. They applied for discharge at the close of State Case on 29 August 2020 and the Prosecutor General responded on 2 September 2022.

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The High Court has temporarily halted the trial of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) duo Joana Mamombe and Cecilia Chimbiri on charges of publishing falsehoods.

Mamombe and Chimbiri appealed a ruling by chief magistrate Faith Mushure dismissing their application for discharge at the close of the State case.

Mamombe, the MP for Harare West, and Chimbiri have appealed against Mushure’s ruling resulting in their defence hearing being delayed.

“Where-upon after reading documents filed of record and hearing counsel, it is ordered that the trial proceedings against the applicants in Case No. CRB ACC 45-46/20 in the Magistrates Court be and is hereby stayed pending the determination of the application for review in HC 6207/22,” Justice Priscilla Munangati-Manongwa ordered on Monday.

Justice Manongwa ruled that the application for review will be heard on November 17, 2022, at 10AM.

Mamombe and Chimbiri were originally charged together with Netsai Marova, who skipped bail and left the country. A warrant of arrest was issued after she failed to appear for a remand hearing.

The trio’s arrest in June 2020 came after they had told police that they had been abducted in Harare by suspected state security agents, driven to Bindura and sexually assaulted. Police accused them of fabricating the incident and charged them with publishing falsehoods.

After calling 10 witnesses, the National Prosecuting Authority tabled a theory that the women faked their abduction and that they never left Harare.

Presenting their defence, the CCC activists denied “publishing falsehoods” – insisting they had not caused publication of accounts of their abduction and torture. They also maintain that police charged them to cover up their abduction and torture.

Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama insists “the evidence led by the state from 10 witnesses does not establish a case against them.”

The Case Timeline in Chronological Order 

On 13 May 2020, CCC MP Joan Mamombe together with opposition activists Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri were allegedly arrested by police following a Covid-19 lockdown protest in the outskirts of Harare.

They alleged that they were subsequently abducted from police custody by State agents, sexually assaulted, and forced to drink each other’s urine. They reportedly went missing for two days following this abduction before they were discovered on a roadside 90km away from Harare.

The trio was subsequently arrested on 10 June 2020 for allegedly having lied about their treatment in custody and for “faking” their abduction.

On 12 June 2020 the trio appeared in court charged with violating section 31 (a)(1)(iii) Criminal law (Codification and Reform Act) which is communicating or publishing false statement prejudicial to the state  as well as section 184(1)(f) which is defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

Their case was rolled over to 15 June 2020 where they were denied bail and remanded in custody to 26 June 2020.

They applied for bail at the High Court and they were on 26 June 2020 subsequently granted ZW$10,000 bail each, ordered report three times a week to a police station and not to speak to the media or go on social media.

Their co-accused Netsai Marova skipped the country last year with an arrest warrant later issued against her.

The trial of Mamombe and Chimbiri resumed before Chief Magistrate Faith Mushure

The State closed its case on 16 August 2020 and Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama told the court that they wopuld apply for discharge at the close of State Case and filed their application on 29 August 2020. Deputy Prosecutor General Michael Reza responded to the application 2 September 2022.

Magistrate Mushure had initially set 9 Septmeber 2022 for the ruling but was later moved to 12 September 2022. Magistrate Mushure dismissed the application for discharge putting Mamombe and Chimbiri to their defence.

The case was postponed to 15 September 2022 for the continuation of trial.

The duo filed an application for review at the High Court.

Timeline of the Review

  1. The applicants shall file a complete transcript of the trial proceedings not later than 7 October 2022.
  2. The respondents to file opposition papers in HIC 6207/22 by 21 October 2022.
  3. The applicants shall file answering affidavits not later than 28 October 2022.
  4. The applicants to file Heads of Arguments in the review matter by 4 November 2022.
  5. The respondents to file Heads of Argument by 11 November 2022.
  6. The application for review shall be heard on 17 November 2022 at 10:00am

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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

[8 March 2022]

Gender Equality Today For a Sustainable Tomorrow

 There is no limit to what we, as women can   accomplish”, Michelle Obama

International Women’s Day celebrated annually on the 8th of March, offers an opportunity to reflect on progress made with regards to gender equality, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played extraordinary roles in history and development of their countries and communities. VERITAS joins all those who have chosen to contribute and lead the charge on climate change, adaption, mitigation and respond to building a more sustainable future for all under the theme #Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow” This day has been celebrated for over 100 years now in different countries and in 1975, the United Nations officially marked it as International Women’s Day.

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                Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow

This year’s theme advances gender equality in the context of climate crisis and disaster reduction in the 21st century. The theme highlights that girls and women are effective and powerful leaders and change-makers for climate adaption and mitigation being involved in sustainability initiatives around the globe.

                                Gender Equality and climate change

Zimbabwe committed itself to gender justice and climate justice through ratification of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2015) and the African Union Agenda 2063 which among other goals seek to achieve enjoyment of equal opportunity between men and women as well as respond to the growing threats of climate change whilst ensuring that the burden and gains are equitably shared.

Zimbabwean women face aggravated challenges due to lack of comprehensive gender-responsive budgeting that addresses basic needs of climate change. Food security, access to clean water, and shelter from extreme weather changes remain pertinent challenges of climate change.

70% of the worlds poor are women. Restricted land rights, lack of access to financial resources, training, and technology, and limited access to political decision-making spheres often prevent them from playing a full role in tackling climate change and other environmental challenges. Financing climate justice must be gender-responsive due to its ability to promote climate justice efforts whilst promoting gender equality. According to the UNDP (2014), only 0.01% of global funding supports climate justice and women’s rights. Gender-responsive financing for climate justice ensures that the needs of both men and women are equitably addressed and efficiency can be derived from ensuring that clear policies, monitoring, and reporting mechanisms are in place so as to track the efficiency of the financing strategies                 

                             Current legal position in Zimbabwe

The Government of Zimbabwe signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 and over the years has made some efforts to domesticate this convention notwithstanding the absence of a specific law on climate change. The inclusion of environmental rights in the 2013 Constitution set the foundation for crafting laws addressing climate change. Citizens are rightfully exercising this right and the court has also ruled that what is important to highlight is that the Constitution gives every Zimbabwean the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. 

The constitutional inclusion not only ensures protection, but it places environmental issues at the same level of concern as other human rights. Currently, the main climate change legislation in Zimbabwe includes the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority Act [Chapter 13:23], the Environmental Management Act [Chapter 20:27], the Electricity Act [Chapter 13:19] and the Forest Act [Chapter 19:05].                                           

                                                Conclusion

Advancing gender equality in the context of the climate crisis and disaster reduction is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. The issues of climate change and sustainability have and will continue to have severe impacts on women and girls.

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S v D Mazhambe

[23 February 2022]

 

The Facts

This case took place in the Chivi village and the scene of the crime is the Tugwi river. At the center of the trial is a 17-year old female who is accused of murder with the intent to kill. She is therefore a juvenile accused. She is accused of having thrown a two-year old child in the river and left the child to drown. In the judgment Mawadze J took time to explain the background of the accused – this is of importance to the matter. The accused lives with her grandmother and her brother. Her mother is described as someone of no fixed abode but works as a housemaid here and there and does not live with the accused. The grandmother allows the accused’s brother, who is younger than her, to take on the patriarchal role of disciplinarian to his sister. He had just beaten her before the incident which led to the issue in question. Earlier on, when the accused was about 15 years, she was raped at gunpoint by her uncle Luckford. She never told anyone but when it was found that she was pregnant, she told her mother. Her uncle was then arrested, only later on released on bail pending trial. At the time of the hearing of this case, he was still out on bail. The child whom she pushed into the water is the result of the rape.

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Question For Determination

The facts of the matter were not in dispute but the court had to determine whether the accused unlawfully and intentionally caused the death of Ruvarashe Mazhambe by throwing her and leaving her to drown in Tugwi River.

The Rationale

The court through investigating the facts of the matter, found that the “highest degree of empathy and mercy” should be applied. The court found that the moral blameworthiness of the accused was low and went on to flesh out how it came to this conclusion. The background and the situation which the accused had to live under was of great persuasive importance in reaching the decision. The judge realised that the young woman in question has lived a life of great misery and distress.

The Decision

In a decision that balanced the scales of justice in one hand and mercy and compassion in the other, Mawadze J found that the accused is guilty of murder with actual intent. This was according to s47(1) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Although found guilty, the honourable judge made a radical decision to impose a non-custodial sentence to the accused. The accused was sentenced to remain in custody until the rising of the court.

Short Analysis

In this matter the bench showed that first and foremost the law seeks to rehabilitate society more than punish people. Mawadze J was able to paint the law with a stroke of empathy and mercy which more often than not, is unusual. The sentencing of the case makes it unique.

Although the judge briefly mentions the age and the juvenile status of the offender, the judge mentions a limited amount of law but rather writes a conclusion based on the issue before hand. It is evident however that there are numerous legal principles that guided the judge in the decision. It is common cause that when dealing with minors or people under the age of 18, their age is a mitigating factor to the matter. This was mentioned in the judgment. The judge also acted in line with principles mentioned by the African Charter for the Welfare of the Child as well as the Children’s Rights Charter. In both instruments including the General Comments, where possible the detention of someone under the age of 18 should be considered a last resort. There is the general belief that such young people have the ability to rehabilitate and so should be offered another chance to reintegrate into society.

The judgment took a humanistic approach.

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International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

[25 November 2021]

Orange The World: End Violence Against Women Now!

In 2020, Time Magazine named the Mirabal sisters as part of its “100 Women on the Year”. What made the Mirabal sisters’ entry outstanding was that unlike most women on the list, these three women passed away over 50 years ago!

Patria, Minerva, and Maria Tersa Mirabal’s sisterhood was held together by the glue of the love they had for their country : the Dominican Republic. One would never have imagined that such strong political resistance would emanate from these simple middle class farm girls. But living under Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship was not for the faint hearted. The three sisters soon became the leaders of an underground movement challenging the regime and were repeatedly arrested for their activities.

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On the 25th of November 1960, the three were assassinated. They soon became the martyrs of the revolution which helped solidify resistance to Trujillo both at home and abroad. Before their deaths, Minerva was quoted saying , “ if they kill me, I’ll reach my arms from the tomb and I’ll be stronger”. And stronger she was!

In 1981, Women’s organisations undertook to commemorate the 25th of November as the day against gender-based violence. On 7 February 2000, the General Assembly, through resolution 54/134, officially designated the 25th of November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Orange The World: End Violence Against Women Now!

The theme this year is simple and straight to the point ; violence against women must be stopped immediately. It is a matter we can no longer afford to procrastinate.

Violence against women encompasses many aspects and is not just limited to physical abuse. Violence includes but is not limited to ; intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, emotional and psychological abuse, female genital mutilation as well as child marriages.

All over the world, different buildings were lit up with orange lights on the eve of the 24th of November. This included the Parliament of Zimbabwe as a pledge to stand against gender based violence. The orange light represents a brighter future that is free from violence for women and girls. And the ceremonies mark the beginning the 16 Days Against Gender Based Violence.

Women Around The World and in Zimbabwe

According to UNWomen, at least 1 in 3 women are abused in their lifetime and only 1 in 10 of these women report their cases to the police. The United Nations further records that in about 37 countries worldwide, rape perpetrators are exempt from prosecution if they are married or show that they will eventually marry their victim. In 49 countries, there is no law protecting women from domestic violence. And the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that 1 in 3 women in Zimbabwe between the ages 15 – 49 have experienced physical violence. They go on to say that 1 in 4 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 in the country and according to Zimstat, 5% of girls are married by the age of 15 and 33.7% by the age of 18. The highest number of child brides being in Mashonaland Central where 52.1% of the girls in the Province are married before the age of 18. The statistics are nothing short of alarming, in order to ensure that no one is left behind, we now need to actively pledge to correct these numbers.  

The Laws Protecting Women

The Constitution of Zimbabwe has numerous rights pertaining to the welfare of women. In section 17 under the National Objectives, Zimbabwe pledges to achieve gender balance. In section 80, the rights of women are elaborated. Section 80 emphasises women having the same rights as men and also outlaws any customs, traditions, and cultural practices which infringe any constitutional right that a woman holds.

Overall, Zimbabwe has about 17 pieces of legislation which give effect to the Constitutional rights of women with one of the most notable being the Domestic Violence Act. Under the Domestic Violence Act, women are protected from, inter alia, physical beatings, sexual harassment and even cat calling.

Zimbabwe is also party to several international protocols including the Maputo Protocol and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. [Information on Zimbabwe’s Compliance with the Protocol can be found of the Veritas Women website here link ]

At this juncture, it is also important to mention that the legal age for marriage under the Constitution is 18 and that the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court outlawed child marriages through the case brought to the courts by Veritas in the Mudzuru judgment.[link]

Leaving No Woman Behind

There is obvious disjoin on what is on paper as law in Zimbabwe and the facts on the ground when it comes to the rights of women. As a nation, we have started the walk to leave no woman behind but the journey is still long.  There is a need to make a consorted effort to bridge the gap between what we say we will do and what we have actually done. This is to not only protect the rights of women but to also end violence against women now!

As mentioned above, the statistics are alarming. The reality on the ground is suffocating the average woman. We are not giving our girls a chance to a better future. We are not giving our women a chance to a brighter future. We must ask ourselves, what sort of Zimbabwe are we moulding if we continue to overload the burden the Zimbabwean woman must carry on her back.

 As Antonio Gutteres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said “ violence in any part of society affects us all. From the scars on the next generation to the weakening of social fabric”.

Conclusions

As we commemorate this day, we call upon the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender, and Communal Development to pledge itself to fight for the rights of women. We call upon the Ministry to fight for rights to be practically implemented and to join the active fight against child marriages. We also call upon everyone to remember that women’s rights are human rights and the time to commit to these rights is now.

At this time, we would also like to recognise all the women who have gone before us and those that are taking an active role in the fight for women’s rights in our nation – both individuals and organisations.

For your work we say #Womandla, aluta continua, thank you.

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S v Coko

[10 November 2021]

Trigger Warning: Rape Case

This case was decided in the Eastern Cape High Court, Grahamstown, South Africa in October 2021. Although it is a case from another jurisdiction, it is a case that will be of persuasive value on how similar matters in other Roman – Dutch based jurisdictions such as Zimbabwe are to be decided. It is of particular importance as it highlights the progress or regress, in the fight against violence towards women.

The Facts

This matter was an appeal from the Grahamstown Magistrates Court where the appellant had been found guilty on one count of rape and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. The appellant is Loyiso Coko, now a 26-year-old male who resided in the Fingo area in Grahamstown. The Complainant was a Rhodes University Master’s student at the time of the crime and is unnamed for the purposes of her privacy.

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The alleged rape incident is said to have taken place on or about 1 July 2018. The appellant and the complainant were in a relationship for over 3 months and had unanimously decided to hang out on the date in question. Prior to the meet up, both the appellant and the complainant acknowledge that they had both agreed to not engaging in sexual penetration – this was mainly the request of the complainant. On the night in question, the complainant had gone to visit the appellant to watch a movie at his house. The two started watching the movie and at the end engaged in kissing. The kissing progressed and the appellant took off the pajamas of the complainant to which she had no underwear underneath. During oral pleasure, the appellant took off his trousers and penetrated the complainant. According to the complainant, she complained of the pain and told him she did not want this and he occasionally stopped and proceeded whispering he was sorry in her ear. The appellant acknowledges she was in pain and did start and stop but disputes whispering his apologies to her.

After the fact, the two continued their relationship but about a month later, the complainant confronted the appellant. The complainant had been living in emotional distress and finally decided to voice her displeasure at the incident. She then reported the matter officially to the police in September 2018, two months after the date of the alleged rape.

The Question For Determination

The court a quo had decided that there was no consent given in the matter. The two appeal judges had to determine whether or not foreplay constitutes tacit consent to having penetrative sex or not.

Rationale

In his determination, the judge considered how it is that the Magistrate Court had reached a guilty verdict. The judges in this appeal combed through the legal principles that guided the court a quo. In the ruling, the judges, did not see that the onus of proof beyond and reasonable doubt had been satisfied. Turning to intention and consent, the judges found there had been no force used to coerce the Complainant into engaging in sexual intercourse.

The Decision

The judges decided that the lower court had erred in its decision and that foreplay did in fact amount to consent given the merits of this case. The appellant’s conviction and sentence were dropped. The judges argued that the court a quo took an emotional approach to the matter as the words which described the appellant were sympathetic to the victim. It was therefore ruled that Coko could not have known that there was no explicit consent.

Analysis

The decision in this matter was made difficult by various issues. For starters, the report of rape came in 2 months after the incident and the two had allegedly continued the relationship after the date of the incident. There was also only one expert witness to which at the time of interaction with the complainant, the expert witness was an intern and so the weight of the evidence given was diminished. The matter relied largely on he said – she said evidence, as the medical examination that the complainant took was done a month after the incident and the only conclusion that could be deduced was that she was not a virgin. It was now too late to tell whether or not forced penetration had taken place.

In South Africa, rape is defined as when “any person (‘A’) who unlawfully and intentionally commits an act of sexual penetration with a complainant (‘B’) without the consent of B, is guilty of the offence of rape.” As can be seen, the crime of rape hinges on the issue of consent, lawfulness and intention. And, so it can be seen why the question for determination in this matter relied on the element of consent.

Often matters of rape prove to be difficult especially where there is no immediate medical examination post the alleged crime. In spite of the difficulties in such matters, it cannot be ignored that the High Court’s decision was a miscarriage of justice. For starters, the decision has a sweeping effect in that it makes foreplay a complete defense for rape. It ignores the fact that consent can be revoked at any time during a sexual act. It also assumes that consent to foreplay means consent to penetrative sex. It is clear that such wide sweeping assumptions are contrary to the protection of women and the rights to their bodies that they have. In its opinion on the matter, the International Commission of Jurists-Africa, stated that the judgment was retrogressive in the fight against gender based violence (GBV). It places the power of consent in the hands of the male or the perpetrator and takes away the power to say no, at any given point that the victim has.

South Africa is usually known for a progressive legal system but this judgment comes at a shock to the world. It is of great hope that the matter will go on appeal and will be decided differently by a higher court.  

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INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY 2021

[12  August 2021]

 

Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation For Human Planetary Health

In 1999, the World Conference of Ministers Responsible For Youth recommended that the 12th of August be set aside as International Youth Day. The recommendation was taken into consideration and by resolution 54/120, it was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. The intended purpose of the day was to draw attention to cultural, legal, and political issues surrounding the youth.  Zimbabwe, however, with a handful of other countries, celebrates Youth Day twice. Firstly Zimbabwe alone celebrates Youth Day on the 21st of February which is also known as Robert Gabriel Mugabe National Youth Day and then on the 12th of August in unity with the rest of the world.

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Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation For Human Planetary Health

What sets this year’s theme apart from previous years’ is that this theme highlights the crucial need to empower the youth. Time and again as a nation we have spoken about the youth, we have had discussions on youth empowerment and daily we have spoken about the state of the youth in the nation. But that’s about all we have done – we have spoken. The theme calls for us to do more than just speak on the plight of the youth of the nation, it calls for us to take action. It shows us that youth innovation is an important ingredient for human planetary health overall. Without empowering the youth, we cannot transform the food systems. It calls for everyone and all institutions to take a step back and reflect on how it is they are taking an active role in equipping young minds. In a paper released on the 5th of August, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) said that world leaders “need to shift their approach in engaging young people in democracy and governance programs from one that views them as recipients to one that treats young people as partners…” The time for real and meaningful engagement has come.

                                        Youth Rights in Zimbabwe

 In Zimbabwe, the youth is defined as people who are between the ages of 15 and 35 according to section 20 of the Zimbabwean Constitution. Section 20 goes on to further set out the rights of the youth in Zimbabwe stating that the State and its institutions should take reasonable measures to ensure that the youth;

  • have access to education and training,
  • opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life,
  • afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment
  • have opportunities for recreational activities and access to recreational facilities
  • be free from harmful cultural practices and all forms of abuse and exploitation

The section further says that all measures must be inclusive, no partisan and national in character.

                                        Youths In Zimbabwe

According to ZimStat, the youth of Zimbabwe make up up to 67.7% of the population . Of those 67.7%, it is believed 96% of the youth have informal jobs according to Aljezeera.  With the majority of youths being unemployed, many have resorted to vending, cross border activity and quick deals to survive and earn a living. Zimbabwe has entered into the Age of Hustling. Finding formal employment with world standard benefits is nearly an impossible feat for the youth of Zimbabwe. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has highlights that Zimbabwe is amongst the hardest countries for youth to get a job and has noted that at least 20% of the youth will never secure employment in their lifetime. The ILO also points out that in some cases, even working youth are experiencing extreme poverty as they live on less that $2 per day.

The Gap Between s20 and the Statistics

The statistics relating to the youth in Zimbabwe highlight the disconnect between the Constitutional rights of the youth and the situation on the ground. As mentioned in the Constitution the basic things such as education and employment are meant to be provided as far as possible by the State so as to better the future generations of the nation and give the nation longevity. With such statistics, youth innovation from a Zimbabwean standpoint is difficult. How can a hungry person think of anything other than their immediate situation? To call for youth in Zimbabwe to engage in something beyond themselves and on a global scale and not to call for the government to focus on bridging the gap between s20 and the statistics relating to the youth would be a mundane effort.

In order for Zimbabwe to move forward, it is time that the State takes section 20 of the Constitution seriously. More engagement and practical action is required from the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts, and Recreation of Zimbabwe. It must be remembered that the Constitution is not a document of suggestions, but rather a guiding document that forms the recipe for the governance of the nation. It should be taken seriously and adhered to as best as possible by all citizens and all arms of government. Those eligible for youth initiatives should not be youths of a particular race, party, colour or creed – all youths must be given opportunities. With poverty, unemployment, hunger and lack of education on their backs, the youth of Zimbabwe cannot be expected to successfully carry the extra load of transforming food systems on a global level. The time has come for the load that the youth carries on its back to be offloaded through meaningful action and peaceful engagement with the youth. Space must be created for the youth. We cannot call for youth innovation when we have a workforce that seldom hires the youth and seldom retires.

As we commemorate Youth Day, may we recall the old adage that “charity begins at home” meaning that for our youths to be able to engage, to be innovative and be a vigorous force, we must first empower and enable them to engage for national action and not silence them.

The Secretary-General for the United Nations, Antonio Guterres reminded us this year that young people must be full partners in achieving transformational change. He also urged “everyone to guarantee young people a seat at the table as we build a world based on inclusive, fair and sustainable development for all”.

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ROE V WADE

18 June 2021

This case took place in the United States but has had a great influence on numerous jurisdictions across the world regarding abortion.

The Facts

In 1969 US national Norma McCorvey became pregnant with her third child and wanted an abortion. Unfortunately for her she lived in Texas where abortion was prohibited by law unless there was a medical reason or if the mother of the child was in danger because of the pregnancy. McCorvey’s doctor referred her to lawyers. They filed a lawsuit on her behalf against the district attorney of Northern District of Texas, Henry Wade. In the matter, McCorvey was cited anonymously using the pseudonym “Jane Roe”. She argued that the abortion ban was unconstitutional. The case stretched on until 1973 and McCorvey did give birth and gave the baby up for adoption.

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The Question for Determination

The court had to simply answer whether or not the Texan abortion law was unconstitutional.

Rationale

The court looked at the right to privacy under the American Constitution. Historically, child bearing and the use of contraception fell under the right to privacy. In the judgment, the court stated that

“This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or … in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

The Decision

The Supreme Court bench of nine, decided 7 – 2 that it was well within a woman’s right to privacy to be able to decide whether or not to have an abortion. By this judgment, abortion was legalized in the US. However the right was not absolute. Abortion would only be freely permissible in the first trimester of pregnancy; the second trimester would be subject to health regulations and in the third trimester abortion would be prohibited entirely.

Short Analysis

The fact that the Supreme Court of the United States heard this matter twice shows the complexity of abortion. Abortion has been a long-standing contentious matter which deeply divides opinion. On the one hand proponents and pro-abortion groups deem the decision in Roe v Wade as progressive and on the other anti-abortion or pro-lifers as they are called deem it immoral and still want it overturned 48 years later.

The Roe case was a decision ahead of its time. It not only paved way for the right to abortion in America but in many other countries as well. The right to abortion plays an important role in society. Often, women find themselves in circumstances where for different reasons they cannot take carry their pregnancies to term and look after the children when they are born. Legalizing abortion gives women safe and reasonably affordable solutions in these situations. Legalising abortions minimizes illegal abortions which potentially endanger the mothers’ lives. It also minimises cases of baby and child dumping which plague countries where abortions are illegal such as Zimbabwe.

The revival of the debate to reverse the Wade vs Roe decision comes at an interesting time in history. The public sentiment appeared to have shifted more towards pro-choice yet the never-ending protests in America show unwavering enormous support for the pro-life movement. The interest around the abortion debate is of vital importance to women’s rights in general. The debate and the arguments advanced for or against legalization have an influence on Zimbabwe’s own abortion conversations regarding whether to legalize it or not.

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Nathanson v Mteliso & Others
21 May 2021

The Facts
The plaintiff was Ricky Nathanson, a transgender litigant who uses the pronouns “she/her” to refer to herself. The defendants were Farai Mteliso, the officer in charge at Bulawayo Central, and others. On or about the 16th of January 2014, the plaintiff was meeting a client at the Palace Hotel, and whilst waiting, she entered and used the female bathroom.

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It is important to add that the Plaintiff appears masculine. At the bar Mteliso made remarks regarding her sexuality and demanded $20 or else face consequences. He said his friend was from the President’s Office and did not like the plaintiff’s being transgender. Ultimately the plaintiff was detained on site and six police officers in riot gear arrested her and escorted her to the police station. There she was detained for a total of three days and subjected to two medical gender confirmation tests as well as genetilia inspection by the police. The police arguing with each other about her gender demanded that she pull down her clothes to show them if she was male or female. Throughout the case, the police justified the arrest on the basis that by entering a female toilet at the hotel, Nathanson had contravened section 46 of the Criminal Law Code and charged her for public nuisance.

The Question for Determination
In this judgment, Bere J, points out that there are about four things to determine but ultimately the question boils down to whether or not the arrest and detention were lawful, and if damages should be awarded to the plaintiff for emotional distress.

Rationale
In his determination, Bere J not only looked at the Constitutional rights of the plaintiff but also the manner in which the arrest and the gender confirmation tests had happened. J. Bere relied heavily on Indian case law and precedent which recognizes a “third gender” which must not be discriminated against. He also based his decision on the anti-discrimination clauses set out in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.

The Decision
The court found the arrest and detention wrongful and awarded the plaintiff damages.

Short Analysis
Bere J took a decidedly surprising but correct progressive stance. The LGBTQIA + community is amongst the most mistreated minorities in Zimbabwe. Ordinarily average Zimbabweans largely believe in homogeny and frown upon any other sexuality which is not heterosexuality. Bere J not only recognized Nathanson foremost as a person who is entitled to their Constitutional rights but also set a precedent regarding opposition to police brutality, or brutality of any kind towards members of the LGBTQIA+. For so long mistreatment of individuals such as Nathanson has been considered somewhat acceptable. Many people of a different sexuality other than conventional heterosexuality have been ostracized, ridiculed and persecuted in Zimbabwe. The judgment sheds new light on what is considered ‘normal’.
Numerous law journals have described the judgment as historic and iconic especially in a deeply conservative society. A precedent was set regarding gender and gender types. A national conversation was sparked regarding the treatment of LGBTQIA+ people. In handing down such an unexpected liberal judgment, Bere J, assisted Zimbabwean courts to join other Southern African courts in recognizing transgender rights as had the Botswana court in 2017 and the South African in 2011. The judgment has made a significant contribution to the recognition of the rights to equality as well as the right to freedom of expression. The judgment acts as a touchstone for future gender and sexuality cases.

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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

8 March 2021

Women In Leadership: Achieving An Equal Future in A COVID-19 World

 

“Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past rooted in pain

I rise”

-Excerpt from “Still I Rise” By Maya Angelou

 

International Women’s Day is commemorated annually to celebrate the achievements of women.  It also serves to bring awareness of the obstacles which stand in the way of women.  Women’s Day was started by the Socialist Party in the United States in 1909 and took off around the world after it was declared a Soviet holiday in Russia in 1917.  Women workers had held very effective widespread protests in Russia to demand better working conditions and an end to the First World War.  By the time the Second World War ended, many countries had begun to celebrate the 8th of March as the day of women. The day has been celebrated for over 100 years now in different countries and in 1975, the United Nations officially marked it as International Women’s Day.

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“Women in Leadership: Achieving An Equal Future in COVID-19 World”

The theme this year emphasizes the work of women in leadership especially as the COVID-19 era hopefully comes to an end.  The theme this year challenges women to rethink, reshape and remodel the leadership roles which they have. It challenges women to do more and take the driver’s seat in shaping the future of the world.  In 2020 there were approximately 21 countries with female heads of government. Both CNN and UN Women reported that these countries had better ways of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic than most other countries.  Clearly this is more than just a coincidence.  With power and a voice, women can truly change the world.

Remembering Women In History

Women are usually not as visible as men when history is told.  Their achievements are minimized or they are portrayed only playing incidental or supporting roles to men.  Little is known and said about Zimbabwe’s liberation war heroines like Freedom Nyamubaya, Angelina Tongogara, Sunny Takawira, Sally Mugabe, Joice Mujuru, and many more.  In addition to fighting alongside men, women risked their lives providing food, shelter, protection, and support to the male fighters.  Women also abandoned their education, families, and lives to join the war. Since independence Zimbabwean women have continued fighting for the country’s development – from the transformative and innovative leadership of Fay Chung in the Education Ministry in the 80s to the activism of Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga today in advocating better access to education for girls and free sanitary wear so poorer girls are not marginalised.  The majority of Zimbabwean women toil on in their daily lives in their humble corners unsung and unnoticed.  On this day we honor all these women whose shoulders we stand on.

Women in Leadership Now

Zimbabwe’s Constitution charges the State to ensure gender equality in all public institutions, but this is still far from being realised. The Constitutional provision for a special quota of 60 women parliamentarians, elected through a proportional representation has gone some way in addressing the gender imbalance in Parliament.  But this was not a permanent constitutional provision and there are still not enough women in elected seats not just in Parliament but in local government.  We need to make it more conducive to women being able to stand for election.  Constitutional Commissions’ appointments have to adhere to the gender parity principle and the challenge is for these women to not just be there to tick the statistic box but to be effective and accountable. Their voices should be heard and their presence felt.

Remembering Women who have been Abused and Tortured

Women’s Day cannot be commemorated without remembering victims of violence and torture. Rape is the most common form of torture experienced by women. It is used by State agents as an instrument to degrade, punish and extort information from them. The World Organisation Against Torture states that one in three women have been subjected to physical ill-treatment in one way or another with rape being the most common instrument of torture.  Women from minority groups and economically disadvantaged women are the most likely to be victims of torture and other forms of abuse. Women vendors are routinely physically and emotionally mistreated by municipal police when being rounded up and chased off the streets.  Violence against women and torture have become such a normal part of everyday life that conscious strides need to be taken to change this.  New ways of relating in families and between security forces and the members of the public need to be learned.  We say NO to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of women.

Conclusion

As we celebrate women we challenge them to be bold and despite all the challenges take up space in their respective spheres of influence to become and achieve an equal future in a COVID-19 World.

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INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Orange the World: “Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect! “

25 NOVEMBER 2020

Introduction

Veritas Women joined Zimbabwe and the rest of world in commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November 2020.  Significantly the day marks the beginning of the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign which culminates in Human Rights Day on 10 December. The campaign- a brainchild of the Women’s Global Leadership Institute started in 1991 and since then has been commemorated annually by women’s organisations in at least 187 countries worldwide. It necessary to set aside time each year to highlight the ever-present and ever-growing scourge of violence against women. Giving the campaign sustained focus for sixteen consecutive days helps to re-invigorate efforts by individuals, the community, government and non-governmental organisations worldwide to end violence against women and girls.

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Defining Violence Against Women

Violence against women results in their social and economic deprivation. The many negative consequences of violence prejudices women through taking away social and career advancement opportunities and access to material resources. Domestic violence includes any unlawful acts, omissions or behaviours which result in death or the direct infliction of physical, sexual or mental injury. Physical violence, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological and economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, malicious damage to property, forcible entry into the victim’s private residence, chasing someone away from their residence or denying them entry or reasonable access to shared facilities, disposing of the matrimonial home and household assets in which the other party has an interest without their knowledge or consent are all forms of violence against women. Harmful cultural and religious practices that violate women’s human rights and dignity are acts of violence and include virginity testing, female genital mutilation, pledging of women or girls for the purposes of appeasing spirits or forced marriage as well as child marriage, forced wife inheritance and forced sexual intercourse between fathers in law and daughters in law.

COVID 19 Crisis & Violence

This year’s commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign takes place amidst the toll of the COVID 19 global pandemic. The pandemic-induced lockdowns and enforced quarantines to quell the virus have resulted in a marked increase in gender-based violence globally. The Zimbabwe Women Lawyer’s Association reports that there has been a 63% increase in gender-based violence in Zimbabwe since the beginning of the lockdown in April 2020. Conversely in some countries like Italy and in some cases, there was a noticeable reduction in the number of calls to report domestic violence. This suggests that many victims of violence in lockdown are unable to call for help because of the continuous physical proximity of the violent perpetrators. Quarantines and lockdowns are stipulated to reduce the community spread of the Coronavirus but they have their downsides as they inflict serious psychological and social disruptions. Couples and families are forced to spend inordinate amounts of time in confined spaces together which increases the likelihood of frustration, tension, and conflict between them. The majority of domestic violence and gender-based conflict and tension are women and children.  While quarantines and lockdowns stem the spread of the Coronavirus they simultaneously raise the potential of gender-based violence. This is what is now termed the quarantine paradox.

According to the World Health Organisation, 35% of women around the world experience some form of sexual and gender-based violence in their lifetime. In times of health crises and other social crises and political conflict, the number can rise to more than 70%. Pandemics have always resulted in increases of sexual and gender-based violence. During the 2013-2015, Ebola outbreak in West Africa estimates of domestic violence incidents were very high even though official statistics were hard to obtain. During pandemics, victims of gender-based violence are often not given due medical attention because health workers will be pressed to give more attention and resources to the pandemic.

Domestic Violence Courts

Zimbabwe has made some strides in setting up legislative mechanisms to fight domestic violence since enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2006. Notably among other provisions the Act provided for the creation of dedicated Domestic Violence (DV) courts in every Magistrates’ Court. Domestic Violence courts have their own separate registries for setting down and hearing cases with greater ease and urgency that is different from the general civil litigation cases ordinarily handled by Magistrates Courts. Domestic Violence court registries provide ready to fill in application forms to applicants which makes litigation more accessible to ordinary citizens when they approach the court for relief. Victims are more readily able to obtain interim protection orders which go a long way in protecting them from more violence while they wait for final determination of their cases.

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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.

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