General on Gender

Identity documents are tags reflective of an individual‟s history and heritage. Without identity documents individuals fall into a bureaucratic limbo as procedures for telling who they are, where they are from, and to whom they are connected are lost. Traditional African culture in Zimbabwe also recognized the importance of identity – hence the collective groupings that existed defined along the lines of one‟s totem; e.g. Dube, Khumalo, Dlodlo, Moyo, Shumba, Ndlovu, etc. Identity links an individual to a society, and, from that link, the individual derives benefits and privileges that could not otherwise be claimable if they were not a part of the group. From an officially recognized identity arise rights and obligations that shape people‟s lives. As important an item as an identity document is, it should not be denied an individual without good reason.

This report looks into the right to identity from the perspective that women are and have always been disadvantaged in Zimbabwe because of the patriarchal nature of the society in which they live. Although there are standing decisions of the courts and laws that change various social standpoints that previously impeded women‟s ability to exercise their rights, women still face problems in exercising these rights because of the same patriarchal society standing in their way, or due to legal illiteracy. This report thus seeks to expose the nature of the right to an identity document or officially recognized identity in the Zimbabwean and global context, privileges arising from that right, problems faced by people who are denied that right, and the overall impact of the denial of the right to identity on women in their capacity as mothers, child rearers, bread winners, and civilians in general.

The signing of the Global Political Agreement in Zimbabwe in September 2008, and the swearing in of the Government of National Unity in February 2009, raised hopes among Zimbabweans and observers throughout the world that the human-rights abuses of the past might be addressed. The theme of transitional justice began to receive a great deal of attention. Human-rights organisations that had been lobbying for transitional-justice mechanisms to be implemented in Zimbabwe hoped that the transitional unity government would prioritise the issue. This hope was short-lived, however. It transpired that economic and political reforms were at the top of the unity government’s agenda; addressing the past has not been a priority.

Aiming to contribute to a smooth transition towards a more peaceful and democratic future for Zimbabwe, and acknowledging that Zimbabwe has a unique history as well as some existing mechanisms for addressing human-rights abuses, this document offers some insight into the history and background of transitional justice. An outline of the five primary focuses of transitional justice processes is provided, followed by brief descriptions of some of the key terms that are used to describe aspects of the process. The purpose of providing this information is to show that transitional justice does not have to be prescriptive: equipped with an understanding of the challenges that come with each mechanism, Zimbabweans can choose from those listed here, and select a set of tools that have the potential to work in Zimbabwe.

“Unless and until we get rid of PHD, women will not go far in any field.” In this context a PHD is not a
doctorate degree, it is an acronym that stands for Pull Her Down. The Pull Her Down Syndrome is
sadly one that most women suffer from regardless of status in society. Upon hearing the term for the
first time I was shocked as it seemed in the group there were a few of us who had never heard of the
PHD, I knew what it was but I hadn’t realised that the behaviour had its own acronym! 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.”

The Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) held 11 focus group discussions with women from different
parts of the country to talk about politically motivated violence against women. The focus group
discussions also explored what women are likely to face as we draw closer to elections, looking at
what happened in past elections and what efforts are being made to protect women from violence.

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