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Women criticise Gender Commission Bill

WOMEN have criticised the proposed Gender Commission structure saying it will give President Robert Mugabe and the Minister of Women Affairs power to infringe on the commission’s independence.

Wongai Zhangazha

Although the constitution of Zimbabwe allows the president to appoint commissioners and chairperson of the commission, many women expressed their displeasure during countrywide public hearings which ended in Harare last week.

The public hearings provided an opportunity for ordinary people to express their views on the Gender Commission Bill and how they would want the commission to operate.

However, a number of those who attended the public hearings, a large number being women, were ignorant of the contents of the Bill until committee members of Women Affairs Gender and Community Development explained the details and importance of the Bill. The Bill has received extensive criticism during hearings, with much of it focusing on the Bill’s tendency to restrict the independence of the commission. Chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Women Affairs Biata Nyamupinga confirmed concerns over the bill.

“The problem at some of the hearings is that the people who attended did not read the Bill when it was gazetted. Their input was not related to the contents of the Bill, but general issues that affect women,” said Nyamupinga.

“However, the contributions were food for thought for the committee. People do not want an appointed chairperson. They want the commission to be people driven. This I found to be back tracking from what they voted for in the new constitution, that the chairperson would be appointed by the president.

“That leaves one questioning whether people understand what they said in the constitution. Their argument is that it would compromise the independence of the commission.”

The Gender Commission will consist of a chairperson appointed by the president after consultation with the parliamentary committee on standing orders and rules. Seven other members are also appointed by the president.

The Bill aims to ensure gender balance in all social sectors, and if passed would be the enabling act for the Gender Commission established by the new constitution.

Among its duties, the gender commission will recommend affirmative action programmes to achieve gender equality, recommend prosecution for criminal violations of rights relating to gender and secure appropriate redress where rights relating to gender have been violated.

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