ELSEWHERE in this edition a story is published that tells the sad story of how women parliamentarians are disrespected in the House. The story is timely coming during a period marked around the world as the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls which runs every year from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25 to Human Rights Day, 10 December.
Zimbabweans now know that abuse of women in parliament is rampant. Some male MPs attack their female counterparts using body-shaming and sexual innuendo. A number of MPs are named in the report which makes the whole sickness easier to tackle than it would have been had the culprits remained anonymous.
Many would like to blame our patriarchal society as the reason why male MPs objectify women and attempt to demean them when they are outsmarted in a debate. Patriarchy has nothing to do with it; it is sheer cowardice on the part of the male MPs. It is well-known some of the people seated in the House are school dropouts who cannot stand serious organised debate by smart young people who have a university education.
What is shocking is that Speaker of Parliament Job Mudenda admits he is not doing anything about it, instead advising the affected MPs to report to the police. He calls the whole heckling of female MPs a criminal matter that demands prosecution in the country’s courts. But that is not how it should be: parliamentary privilege, which the errant MPs hide behind, makes criminal prosecution of such members nearly impossible.
Mudenda, as the leader of the House, should be firm on MPs’ misdemeanours including the objectification of female MPs. He has the means at his disposal to do so including imposing sanctions which might mean suspending without allowances such MPs for a number of days.
There is also great irony in this. It is a fact that most MPs are elected into parliament by women voters; why these MPs so blatantly disrespect the people who put them into Parliament boggles the mind. It all comes down to the weakness of our electoral system where often people vote with their mouths; they are bribed by the aspiring MPS with food handouts and money so that their sole reason for voting the way they do is because of what they receive. Most aspiring women MPs are disadvantaged in this because they lack the wherewithal to bribe electors.
But women should stand up en bloc to fight this warped type of electioneering. The enlightened women should educate their counterparts that by withholding their vote misogynist politicians will not make it to parliament. The misbehaviour of “Honourable” MPs sends wrong signals to the general populace especially to boys and young men that disrespecting women is permissible. Mudenda should have the balls to stop the misogynists.