Pushing women out of politics.
Subject: Violence (Demographic aspects)
Violence (Control)
Sexual abuse (Control)
Sexual abuse (Demographic aspects)
Women (Crimes against)
Author: Baumgarten, Robin
Pub Date: 08/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: August, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 980 Legal issues & crime
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Zimbabwe Geographic Code: 6ZIMB Zimbabwe
Accession Number: 188293329
Full Text: After the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won the Zimbabwean parliamentary elections in March 2008 against the ruling ZANU PF led by Robert Mugabe, there was a month of silence until the results of the simultaneously held presidential elections were officially announced in early April. As none of the candidates won an outright victory, a run-off election was held in June. The MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai eventually withdrew from this run-off due to escalating violence meted out by ZANU PF supporters, predominantly youth militia and soldiers, inflicting both physical and emotional wounds on those associated with his party.

Women hit hard

In this climate of rape, torture and murder, women have faced extraordinary violence, whether as retribution and intimidation for their own political affiliations or those of their husbands, sons or brothers. Dadirai Chipiro was married to an MDC party official. According to Women's Watch Bulletin, Dadirai was burnt alive. Men came to her home looking for her husband. They chopped off one of her hands and both of her feet, threw her into her hut, locked the door and threw a petrol bomb through the window. According to the post-mortem report she died from hemorrhaging and severe burns.

Amai Kuda, MDC ward chair person in her area, campaigned openly for her position. She reported that "Youth militia came to our area and started singing abusive songs about our leader. They did not do anything at the time, but came back a few days later. They burnt our tobacco barns, our fields and our home. There were at least fifty of them ... We were hit with bicycle chains, hosepipes, logs ... They tore my clothes and carried me to their base half naked." Amai and her husband were beaten for several hours.

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One man in the Midlands reported the extent of sexual abuse. "Every woman who is still young is being raped by these brutes who threaten to destroy homesteads if women do not give in to their demands," he says. "We are going to be raising children that our not ours, but Aids is the real threat in this community now."

Impact on women

While the violence leaves physical scars on the survivors, it also leaves emotional trauma. Along with that burden, women carry the responsibility of explaining the events to their children, creating a safe space for them amid all of the chaos. In addition, they must provide food, clothing and shelter for these children, even after many of their homes and farms have been destroyed. Finally, the women also deal with the stigma of having been raped.

According to reports by Pambazuka News, the majority of women targeted are political activists, openly stating that they are trying to ensure a better future for their children. The violence and intimidation these women face could result in the long term danger of keeping women on the fringes of politics, unable to articulate their voices and to ensure their needs are catered for in the future.

What women want

Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR) recently published an open letter to the African Union, the United Nations and the Southern Africa Development Committee asking their support in demanding that the ZANU PF government stop using violence against its people. They called for the AU Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women to conduct a fact finding mission to Zimbabwe to support the efforts of community and grassroots organisations. They also encouraged humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, particularly in the provision of food, health and education for rural communities and the displaced, highlighting the need for reproductive health services for women and girls. Life expectancy for women in Zimbabwe currently stands at only 34 years.
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