HomeCommentCandid Comment: Constitution must make women’s rights a reality

Candid Comment: Constitution must make women’s rights a reality

WOMEN are the only sector of the Zimbabwean population mentioned specifically by name by the three principals of the global political agreement in Article 6 on the constitution-making process.

This is attributable to the unjust legal, constitutional and social status of women, which may qualify them as a group most in need of a new constitution.
Article 6 says the principals are determined that the new constitution “deepens our democratic values and principles and the protection of the equality of all citizens, particularly the enhancement of the full citizenship and equality of women”. For this to happen a new constitution must have, at the minimum, the following provisions across the breadth of the 17 thematic areas.
Firstly, a specific equality clause that says all people are equal would be necessary. This should not only be in the bill of rights but also reflected in the preamble and founding principles.
Secondly, a clause that specifies that women and men have equal citizenship is necessary to eliminate the second class citizenship of women manifest in them being disadvantaged in passing on their citizenship to their children with foreign men, or in having their foreign husbands acquire Zimbabwean citizenship.
In the Bill of Rights itself the following clauses are needed. An effective anti-discrimination clause that makes discrimination unlawful and unconstitutional, including on the basis of sex, gender, and marital status, is necessary. It is vital for the constitution to state that all culture and custom is subject to human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It is also critical to have a clause guaranteeing the right to security of the person that clearly and specifically also includes the right to protection from violence against women.
There will also be a need to have a stand-alone clause on the rights of women.
Another necessity is a stand-alone clause providing for children’s rights as this would address many of the concerns of women because of their childcare roles.
A further necessity would be the introduction of economic, social and cultural rights, which include rights to healthcare, water, sanitation, shelter, livelihoods and environmental rights. 
Affirmative action should be provided for so that special temporary measures to address the historical marginalisation of women are not held to be unconstitutionally discriminatory.
This affirmative action should also specifically provide for a 50% quota for women in decision-making at all levels in line with Article 12 of the Sadc Protocol on Gender & Development.
Another clause should introduce proportional representation into the electoral system exclusively or in combination with the present first-past-the-post system. This is as long as proportional representation is not confined to the Senate which, being the house of Parliament traditionally dominated by appointees, is stereotyped negatively against women.

Jessie Majome is Women’s Affairs deputy minister.

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