Press Statement 25 November 2012


ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) joins the global community in commemorating the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence-an international campaign which seeks to raise awareness about gender based violence.

The campaign is commemorated between 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and 10 December (International Human Rights Day), symbolically linking women and human rights, and confirming that Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is a human rights violation.

In 2012, the campaign will continue with the global theme “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”

Militarism is ‘an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression, or military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests.’ Militarism therefore refers to an attitude that occurs at all levels of society, from the home, to the workplace, to institutions and organs of State.

It is the perseverance of women, human rights and peace movements that have challenged the social structures which allow violence and discrimination to continue, and sought to define security as one that emphasises peace and the fulfillment of human rights as the way to achieve genuine security for all.

Zimbabwe is a signatory to many international instruments, protocols and tools which seek to protect and respect women’s rights such as the Beijing Platform for Action, the Covenant on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations Security Council’s Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960 on Women, Peace and Security and more. Zimbabwe took the lead in the SADC region by being the second state to ratify the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, a key regional instrument for advancing women’s rights and gender equality. It contains substantive targets for achieving gender equality by 2015, including that of reducing by half current levels of GBV, making this initiative a global front-runner!

Although Zimbabwe has made great progress in accepting these standards for women, there remain major gaps in implementation and in accountability for implementation.

Regrettably, there have been significant violations of women’s rights, against such obligations as reported on the eve of the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Zimbabwe, where ZiFM DJ and actress Tinopona Katsande was a victim of the vice that we are tirelessly seeking to eliminate. The horrific act of violence inflicted on Katsande raises alarm and also exposes the horrific nature of gender-based violence that persists in Zimbabwe.

In Zimbabwe, there has been no respite in arbitrary arrests and detention of women Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) particularly those affiliated to the Women of Zimbabwe Arise pressure group including mothers with minors, denial of medical treatment for women activists in detention, discrimination, sexuality, baiting, discriminatory stereotyping of women HRDs, and violations of women’s rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful protest in contravention of CEDAW, one of the most highly endorsed international human rights conventions.

Gender-based violence is a deliberate outcome of discrimination, gender hierarchies and militaristic behaviour. Of particular note is the use of sexual violence such as rape, as a tactic to create fear and to humiliate or punish women and their communities. Attention must be paid to the violation of women’s rights when they are victimised as part of a political process-during election times for example.

Gender-based violence is a global pandemic that cuts across borders and impacts all peoples and societies regardless of ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, or religion. In Zimbabwe there is urgent need to deal decisively with this vicious cycle of violence, as the violence manifesting itself in the political arena mirrors the inner turmoil existing within individuals and families. The human rights abuses against women not only inflict great harm and suffering on individuals but they tear at the fabric of entire societies.

There is need for all members of society to commit themselves to changing attitudes and ending all forms of violence against women and girls. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an opportunity for all Zimbabweans to condemn gender-based violence and renew their commitment and action towards its elimination. It is critical to note, however, that action must be sustained throughout the year, as it confronts and affects women, men and children on a daily basis.

In Zimbabwe there are laws that protect society against family violence and abuse, rape, sexual assault and other gender-based violence, but these laws are meaningless without effective, fearless and sustained implementation by the police, prosecutors and the courts against any and every perpetrator. It is our collective responsibility to end the culture of gender-based violence in Zimbabwe, as we are all born of woman and have grandmothers, sisters and daughters who we must protect and respect.

It is pertinent that on this occasion, ZLHR challenges individuals, communities, traditional leaders, the Police and Prisons Services, the National Youth Training Programme, Youth and Women’s Caucuses, the Security Forces, the Courts and the Inclusive Government; to reject militarism as a facet of violence against women; to advocate for standards of peace and equality in all relations; and to make progress towards the elimination of gender-based violence by ending the culture of impunity.

ZLHR urges institutions of justice delivery to ensure that the prosecution of perpetrators of domestic and gender-based violence is carried out expeditiously, publicly, and in a manner that encourages other victims of gender-based violence to report their cases with confidence that the law will protect and vindicate them where they have had the courage to bring these hidden violations to light.

© Copyright ZLHR 2013