While Zimbabwean is signatory to numerous key global instruments that are strong in seeking protection of children from harmful practices and sexual abuse, certain definitions and clauses in the country’s national policies and law are in contradiction with the government’s regional and international position.
• The Childrens’ Act defines a child as “a person under the age of sixteen years” and a young person as “a person who has attained the age of sixteen years but has not attained the age of eighteen years.”
• The Marriage Act [which governs civil marriage, states that the minimum age of marriage is sixteen for girls and eighteen for boys, differentiating girls from boys by allowing girls to marry early.
• The Customary Marriages Act, [Chapter 5:07] (Act 23/2004) which governs customary marriages at law, does not set a limit to the minimum age at which individuals can marry.
These clauses are inconsistent with the Constitution of Zimbabwe which defines a child as “every boy and girl under the age of eighteen years.‟
These ambiguities are clearly evidenced when looking at the issue of child marriages, especially considering Cisse Mariama Mahomed, AU’s coordinator of the African Committee of Experts on the rights and Welfare of the Child expressed her concern that Zimbabwe is among Africa’s leading countries when it comes to child marriages.
It is with all these nuances in mind that this RAU study sought to understand how the participants themselves conceptualised childhood and marriage.
During the period of the Inclusive Government civil society overlooked the opportunity to move away from their preoccupation with political transition to its more conventional role of reflecting citizen voice and pushing for reform31. Zimbabwe has been a very polarized country over the last decade and party politics governed supreme. This has been a weakness not only at the national level, but markedly in local government, and it has affected civil society as well. A culture of political intolerance and fear has reigned and this needs to change.
The collapse of the opposition and the disarray in ZANU PF allows civil society organisations to occupy space around new areas, and particularly issues around the failure of the state to deliver public goods and services. The new Constitution offers a potential area of engagement, informing and raising awareness to citizens about their rights; what they are and how to claim them is important in this new dispensation.
Civil society could also potentially play a stronger role in nurturing change agents in society and supporting active citizenship , if framed in a way that is not unduly confrontational or perceived by ZANU PF as part of a ‘regime change’ agenda.
While poor conditions in police cells in Zimbabwe affect both men and women, women suffer more injustices because of their biological make up. Women are arrested violently, harassed, assaulted, and intimidated in police custody. Women are beaten and taken into custody even if they are carrying babies on their backs when they demonstrate to show their displeasure with bread and butter issues, such as constant price increases. Although the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) have an important role to play in society in the protection of human rights by maintaining law and order, itself a precondition for the enjoyment of human rights, they have acted to the contrary.. The police has shown total disregard for this constitutional mandate, human rights responsibilities generally and important provisions of the law. The police clearly ignore the fundamental rights of detainees and ignore key aspects of the law involving policing.
This report examines the incarceration of women activists in Zimbabwe, and how they cope in police cells that are widely known as not fit for human habitation.
Women in Zimbabwe are living in communities where politics is fierce and violent and they suffer the fallout.
In the 2008 election period, women experienced mass violations; sexual and physical assault, homes were burnt to the ground, property was looted by the assailants, families were displaced, and some women were killed. Some women who were not political activists faced double the tragedy; their husbands who were the activists ran away, but they could not (how could they leave the children, and, even if they could, where would they go with four or five children? Most of the women stayed and they ‘paid for their husband’s crime.’ How do they pick themselves up from this? How do they continue to exist in the same community where the perpetrators still lives in? How do they live with the rejection of the man whom they suffered for? These are the many questions that constantly play in the minds of many women in Zimbabwe.
The women said more knowledge on their rights would benefit them and enable them to apply this in their everyday lives, economic ideas and assistance to better their lives. This report emphasises that the main battle is within their minds because it is defying what they have been taught from an early age about the role of a woman in society. The consensus was ‘empower the women and you will see the change which is much needed.’
The Pull Her Down Syndrome is sadly, one, that most women suffer from, regardless of status in society. Based on discussions with women from all over the country, RAU was able to determine the PHD is holding women back as women do not support other women to occupy leadership positions. The syndrome is based on an inferiority complex, “We look down upon each other and ourselves by saying we are not able to do it, let the men do it.”
This study looks at the different ways in which women tend to drag each other down.
The traditional practice of kusunga ukama – paying lobola to a bride’s family to cement ties between two families has become lost in translation and is now regarded as a commercial activity. Parents have turned their daughters into businesses. Girls are now considered to be a source of wealth. This not only creates the problem of placing monetary value on human beings, but reinforces the discrimination against girls and women as these women are not valued for themselves but for the potential benefits that can be derived from their existence.
RAU gathered views from women from different parts of the country who pointed out that the practice of paying lobola seems to stifle women’s voices and bargaining power within marriage. It renders them subservient to their husbands and they cannot complain should they be treated because society expects them to endure in silence.
Citizenship, active citizenship, and social capital are either highly contested in, or wholly absent from, the socio-political discourse in Zimbabwe. Subsequently citizen status has become a privileged status, with government redefining citizenship in ways that exclude a range of minorities. What the risk averse “conception of civic life” and” trust‟ means for our understanding of social capital is problematic.
Zimbabweans are chary of political affiliation, but not of voting, but there is little evidence to suggest in what other ways they engage “associational life”. Although there are hundreds of non-governmental organisations and other civic initiatives, there are few reports that analyse citizens‟ activities from a social capital perspective per se. In this report through the data available we examine how Zimbabwean citizens view active citizenship and social capital.
Politically motivated sexual violence against women in Zimbabwe takes many forms. These include extreme violence, gang rape and insertion of objects (bottles and sticks) into the women‟s genitalia. This report is the first coming out of Zimbabwe focusing particularly on politically motivated rape; the aim of the study was to provide a valid and reliable description of cases of politically motivated rape. Since this was a clinical rather than an epidemiological study, there was no attempt to determine either the prevalence of political rape or to establish how representative the sample was.
The sample was chosen from women members of a voluntary network set up to provide support for female victims of politically motivated rape. A total of 34 women were interviewed, but 7 were excluded from the study as they could not be traced on follow-up for medical examinations and finalizing and signing affidavits. Hence, the data is drawn from a final sample of 27 women.
It is very foolish when Zimbabweans, 110 of them, and most members of the Government since 2000, or high-ranking members of the security forces, or ranking members of ZANU PF, decide to sue the European Union for “falsely” placing restrictive conditions on them, and on some of their companies. It is foolish because, no matter the propaganda value of taking the European Union to court, they placed themselves in court, and not a court that they could subvert, like the SADC Tribunal, but a court that has credibility in the international court of opinion.In a very brief press statement on 22nd April 2015, the General Court of the European Union dismissed the application by Johannes Tomana, 109 other Zimbabweans, and 11 companies to annul the restrictive conditions placed on them (initially in 2002) by the Council of Europe. This article is an op ed piece considering the judgment.
In this study, RAU sought to establish the perceptions of community security from youth and women from two sites, one rural and one urban in the Midlands province. The rationale was to establish how women and youth in an urban area define community security and if their issues are the same as those in a rural area. The overarching aim of this project was to find ways to strengthen youth and women’s voices on community security needs and facilitate an active role of these two important groups in working towards developing their communities.