Prosecute rapists: then we’ll celebrate

International Women’s Day - March 8 - is a global day for celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In Russia and China it is a national holiday. In Zimbabwe we have much to celebrate – notably the large number of organisations working together to strengthen the position of women in the country’s development processes.

One organization we wish to celebrate for brokering power to women is the Doors of Hope, still very much in infancy but doing great work. It was formed in 2009 as a support group giving hope to rape survivors. They have been bold enough to take in women who suffered politically-motivated rape – something most mainstream institutions supporting rape survivors have avoided.

Doors of Hope actively recruit other rape survivors and provide counselling, access to medication and other services.

The threat of sexual violence continues to be a noose around every woman in Zimbabwe, particularly whenever elections take place. Rape continues to be the tool used to subjugate women, and indeed their families, into following a particular path orchestrated by a cruel few. Scores of women were sexually abused in the election year of 2008 and in most cases, the perpetrators are known yet roam free.

The creation of the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration was a welcome development to especially to women, as it was deemed to be an acknowledgement by government, of the severity of the problem of politically-motivated violence including that of a sexual nature. However, more remains to be done in terms of turning its provisions into reality.

A culture of impunity still prevails where commercial sex workers are subjugated and exposed to targeted rape, and defenceless women particularly in rural areas are abused as examples to others.

Local civil society organisations, together with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and National Healing Organ are in Geneva at the 51st session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Some of the recommendations being presented to the Committee include:

• The state should prioritize the sensitization of bodies such as the police, the courts and other key bodies facilitating the protection and access to justice of women victims of politically motivated violence with a view to ending impunity;

• The state should set up a multi-sectoral investigation into politically motivated violence led by the Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with other ministries and stakeholders before the next elections to ensure it does not recur

• The state should not only condemn but also hold accountable those responsible for politically motivated violence.

Our society needs to develop a conscience against inflicting violence on our kith and kin for political reasons. It is society itself, rather than government, that can desist from subjecting women to sexual violence. For many women, the day we will truly celebrate will be when the state gives priority to prosecuting offenders and telling the truth.

Post published in: Politics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *