HomeBusiness DigestRape, sexual abuse Zanu PF’s poll weapons — report

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ZANU PF allegedly used rape and other forms of sexual abuse against women between 2000 and 2008 as punishment for those perceived to have voted against it, a National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) report has said.

This was revealed in a report titled Fighting for a New Constitution: Human Rights Violations Experienced by Female Members of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) launched last week in Harare.

The report stated that of all the gross human rights violations it is rape and sexual abuse that is particularly inflicted upon women and it is of concern that so little is accurately known about the prevalence of rape and sexual abuse in the country.

 “There is a strong link between elections and sexual violence with sexual violence being used as a political weapon to silence dissent or intimidate opponents,” reads the report adding that the elections that were held in 2008 point as evidence to the proposition.

The report was a study based on views from 231 women from various high density suburbs of Harare, Rusape, Mutare, Masvingo, Bindura, Headlands and Shamva who pointed fingers at war veterans and youth militia as primarily responsible for intimidation and torture. 

Base stations created by Zanu PF militia and war veterans were labelled as the most “odious” of places, where most of these alleged human rights violations against women activists were perpetrated.

The women alleged various forms of abuse at the hands of the perpetrators which include severe bruising, fractures, back injuries and lacerations.

“Two women reported having miscarriages as a result of the ill treatment and six women reported being raped, three of these reported contracting HIV as a consequence and another suffered vaginal injuries,” read the report.

Of the perpetrators political party members constituted the majority with 93%, war veterans 84%, youth militia 72%, police in uniform 39%, riot police 20% and CID 11%.

“It is probable that these were members of Zanu PF in common with most human rights reports since 2000,” the report said.

It is alleged that the injuries were as a result of the use of baton sticks, booted feet, sticks, whips, being slapped by open palms and rape.

The study also showed that women in most cases did not willingly want to attend political meetings, with 94% of the group confirming that they were forced to attend meetings while many suffered emotional stress of abduction of self and family members and death threats.

Victimisation, according to 75% of the women interviewed, was a result of their own active involvement in politics, while 56% reported that they had also been victimised because a member of their family was involved in politics.

The report concluded that being a female and a civic or political activist comes with severe risks and recommended that women activists should participate in any civil society activities without fear of reprisal and brutal treatment from law enforcement agents.

Due to the suffering, the women further said they would not entertain conversations of national healing and reconciliation unless central issues of the abuse they went through in the period 2000 to 2008 were addressed.

The women interviewed were strongly against amnesty with only 4% feeling that amnesty should be given to people who have committed politically motivated crimes or crimes against humanity.

A large number of the women (90%) felt that a truth and reconciliation commission should be established and 98% were of the opinion that people who committed violence against women should be prosecuted, while 94% felt that people who committed violence against women should be compelled to publicly admit their crimes before the truth commission.

In a speech read on behalf of NCA chairperson Lovemore Madhuku by the organisation’s spokesperson Madock Chivasa, Madhuku acknowledged the role women have played in the country’s struggle for democracy and a new constitution.

He said: “Zimbabwean women have been the bedrock of our struggle for democracy. Our mothers and sisters have refused to just sit and let a despot have his way.”

“Whilst the report documents human rights violations, it also tells the story of women standing up to injustice and boldly declaring that they too will, through peaceful action, add their voice to the building of participatory social democracy.  Their vulnerability is supposed to send an unambiguous message to all who seek participation in the fight for democratic reforms.”

Wongai Zhangazha

 

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