Monday the 20th of February it was. I would think the exact time was 1525 hrs, Geneva time. The Session had begun at 1500hrs. I was the 7th speaker among 8 designated speakers; 3 from Algeria, 2 from Jordan and 3 from Zimbabwe. Each speaker was given 3 minutes to say all they had to say.
What would I say in 3 minutes? What was the most crucial message for me to get across to the Committee members? What if I ran out of time before I said it all? What if my words failed me?
My delivery was obviously on the issue that is dear to me; the physical, mental and finacial integrity of women and the one thing that I was fighting in that Committee Room in the Palais des Nationes on that cold Monday afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland was violence against women. The government delegation of more than 18 people was listening attentively. All 23 members, except for one of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women were listening to hear what Miss Rumbidzai Dube from the Research and Advocacy Unit from Zimbabwe had to say to them.
Was I nervous, of course! This was not a moot court competition. This was the real deal. A deal breaker. Women in Zimbabwe depended on me to make the Committee know how much they suffered at the hands of violence. They needed me to be brave to respond boldly to the questions of the Committee when they asked me who were the perpetrators of political violence. I had to name the Police in the presence of a top police official. I had to say political parties in the presence of all representatives of the political parties. I had to say the military and war veterans in the presence of the Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Switzerland. Yes I had to say it. The women I was representing needed me to tell the Committee what they want, what they have always said they want to address violence:
- Prosecution of offenders
- Psycho-social support
- Trauma Counselling
- The truth of what happened
- Public and sincere apologies
So, I did as the women asked as best I could in the 3 minutes I was given and this is what I had to say…
51st Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
ZIMBABWE NGO Statement and Delegation
The following text will not be read out:
The Zimbabwe Civil Society Delegation wishes to present the NGO Report which has been endorsed by 27 CSO organisations and is the result of wide consultations in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Civil Society Report
Emilia Muchawa, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association
Rumbidzai Dube, Research and Advocacy Unit…
Violence against women
a) Madame Chair, we acknowledge the positive development of the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act which has provided a framework for addressing violence in the private sphere.
However insufficient resources to ensure the effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act have been provided. In particular the state has not allocated adequate resources to the effective function of the Domestic Violence Council or for public education and awareness raising. There are only 4 formal shelters in the whole of Zimbabwe to cater for the thousands of victims that seek refuge each year.
We recommend that:
- The state allocate adequate resources to the national gender machinery and the Anti-domestic violence council for the effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act
- Further that the state builds adequate shelters to give women a refuge and safe space when subjected to domestic violence
b) We also note that violence in the public sphere has been on the increase especially in times of elections. Politically motivated violence plagues Zimbabwean women. In 2008 alone, civil society organisations documented the use of an organised campaign of violence against women in the period towards the Presidential rerun which violence resulted in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission deeming the election not free and fair.
Women human rights defenders are persistently targeted, arrested, detained, tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment. In 2012 alone 27 women from the activist organisation Women of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested for demonstrating peacefully.
The state has not adequately protected women from sexual violence including politically motivated rape, and targeted rape against sex workers and LBT women. This has also led to increased HIV/AIDS infections where women comprise 56% of people living with HIV/AIDS as these women are forced to have unprotected sex. Social and cultural norms limiting women’s control over their sexual and reproductive rights including negotiation of safe sex, also increases women’s risk of exposure.
The state has acknowledged the severity of the problem of politically motivated violence by setting up an Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration and the 3 Principals in the Inclusive Government have also acknowledged this.
However cases of politically motivated violence remain largely uninvestigated and unprosecuted leading to a culture of impunity which feeds the cycle of violence. Existing institutions such as the Organ on National Healing, the Joint Monitoring Committee (JOMIC), and the Human Rights Commission which has a prescriptive mandate are not adequately capacitated to effectively address this form of violence.
We recommend that:
- The state should prioritise the sensitisation 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 in line with UN Resolution 1820 as part of a comprehensive approach to seek sustainable peace, justice, truth and national reconciliation;
- The state should set up a multi-sectoral investigation into politically motivated violence led by the Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with the Ministries of Home Affairs and Justice and other stakeholders before the next elections to ensure that politically motivated violence does not recur
- The state should not only condemn but also hold accountable those responsible for the perpetration of politically motivated violence.