Suffering of women highlighted

woman_cryingHARARE Zimbabwean women have remained vulnerable to political violence because judicial and security systems are too compromised to enforce accountability of the perpetrators.

Lawyers and civil society representatives attending the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) organised workshop last week noted that weak institutional systems in the country ensured impunity for perpetrators of political violence.

In the majority of cases, the perpetrators are men who continue committing more political crimes without restraint.

Jessie Majome, the Deputy Justice Minister, said Zimbabwes political transition -from the liberation struggle through to the current power struggles between Zanu (PF) and the MDC – has been littered with criminal rights abuses targeting women.

Netsai Mushonga, the Womens Coalition of Zimbabwe national coordinator, said women became more vulnerable with each phase of upheaval that had affected Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe had a huge backlog in justice for mass human rights abuses, dating back to the war of liberation (1963-1980).

Mushonga noted that the current power sharing government lacked the political will to deal with transitional justice matters and bring perpetrators to book.

Government looks hesitant to carry out comprehensive transitional justice systems for Zimbabwe. There is need for civic society to lobby, advocate and push for this to happen, she said. .

Participants noted that perpetrators were increasingly using rape as a weapon to frighten and humiliate women and girls, in contravention of international treaties such as the UN Security Council Resolution 1820 S/RES/1820(2008), which outlaws the use of sexual abuse in conflict situations.

Leading human rights lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, gave chilling examples of how male-dominated courts humiliated women victims of election-related violence.

Male political activists fled violence hotspots, leaving women to face the wrath of perpetrators. Mtetwa gave the example of evidence that came out of the 37 electoral petitions filed by the MDC after the violent 2000 elections.

The majority of male petitioners would have fled their homes in anticipation of violence against them leaving their wives and children at home, who bore the brunt rapes, assaults, abductions and other forms of violence, according to Mtetwa, who drafted most of the petitions.

In one of the Mberengwa constituencies, a female witness who was forced to insert a log into a her private parts and simulate intercourse was incredibly branded a liar by the male trial judge even before she was cross examined.

Tinoziva Bere, a ZLHR board member, said affected individuals should be confident enough to approach courts such as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

For individual rights such as mass rape and torture I recommend the ICC. Even if Zimbabwe does not recognise the international court, the ICC will arrest those responsible for crimes against humanity. It will pursue such people the same way it is doing to Omar Hassan.

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