Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

Fast Facts

Total population: 14,9 million

Internet penetration rate: 5 million users

State bodies tasked with tackling GBV: Department of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development | Department of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs | Department of Health and Child Care | Department of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare | Zimbabwe Gender Commission | Anti-Domestic Violence Council | Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit | National Peace and Reconciliation Commission

A portal to enable and empower

A portal to enable and empower

Overview

In May 2013, following an overwhelming constitutional referendum, Zimbabwe’s new Constitution came into force. The United Nations lauded the new Constitution’s alignment with international and regional instruments which seek to promote gender equality. Some of the key changes include explicit recognition of inherent dignity and worth as founding values, new provisions dealing with rights of women (section 80) and children (section 81), the right to privacy (section 57), and establishment of the Gender Commission. It also put measures in place to promote women’s participation in Parliament.

Given the county’s political turmoil, it is unsurprising, yet regrettable, that politically motivated violence against women is a reality for women in Zimbabwe. A paper by Maybe Zengenene and Emy Susanti examines the use of systematic violence to stifle women’s political participation and counter gender-mainstreaming efforts. In 2008, scores of women reported that they had been r*ped and abused by militia in the lead-up to elections.

Further, spousal abuse is often cited as a prevailing type of harm in Zimbabwe – with experts and activists highlighting a relationship between economic hardship, fuelled by patriarchal thinking, and GBV. Prior to the pandemic, ZimStat reported that in 2017 at least 22 women were r*ped daily in Zimbabwe, translating to almost one woman per hour. Notably, between the period 2010 and 2016, there was an 81% spike in r*pe cases across the country.

Similar to other African countries, the Zimbabwean government implemented a social relief programme to support families during the pandemic, but the exacerbated levels of GBV under lockdown have largely been met with inaction by the state. The collection and analysis of data on this has primarily been done by NGOs. Under lockdown, there has notable uncertainty about the type of GBV services that are designated as essential services, including NGOs mandated to support survivors.

Zimbabwe, with the support of the Spotlight Initiative, is currently working towards developing a national GBV Information System, which is intended to facilitate more accurate reporting on GBV and therefore more complete and informed decision-making for programs, advocacy and resource mobilisation.

On the issue of OGBV, although the Gender Commission has recognised that ‘cyberbullying and stereotyping’ are harmful practices that plague women, the Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill of 2019 has not yet been enforced, and so little has been done to prosecute cyber-related offences. The Elton Makumbe case, which concerned abusive social media posts by a minor targeting a woman, is the country’s first cyberbullying case. It highlighted law enforcement’s constraints in dealing which matters of this nature. Eventually, the perpetrator was prosecuted under the Criminal Codification and Reform Act.

With respect to OGBV. Dr Sithemiso Nyoni, the Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises, has reiterated the need for a multi-sectoral approach to GBV and reaffirmed every Zimbabwean’s right to personal security and bodily integrity. In a statement to National Assembly in March 2021, she stated, “[GBV] is our collective responsibility; each one of us has a role to play to ensure that gender-based violence does not happen…”

Holding those in power to account

Holding those in power to account

National lockdown caused a strain on healthcare and other social services in both urban and rural areas in Zimbabwe. For example, the Women’s Coalition reported that lockdown resulted in increased violence against women at water-access collection points.

Eleven days into the national lockdown, one of Zimbabwe’s civil society organisations at the forefront of tackling GBV, Musasa Project, recorded 764 calls related to GBV already that month. Ordinarily, Musasa receives an average of 500 to 600 GBV cases per month.

The two most frequently reported forms of violence under lockdown were psychological violence and physical violence.

  • Shortly after President Mnangagwa ‘s announcement in March 2020 that the country would be imposing lockdown measures under a state of emergency, the Institute for Young Women (IYWD) called for a gendered response to the pandemic. Amongst IYWD’s concerns was the lack of sanitation and protective clothing for people accessinf community boreholes (as water collection is a task generally carried out by girl children and young women). IYWD also highlighted the increased burden faced by women as primary caretakers as a large number of people returned to their rural homes under lockdown. As of 8 May 2020, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Ministry of Women) did not issue any statement on the plight of women during the COVID-19 response.
  • In September 2020, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, the Minister of Women Affairs participated in an interview with Spotlight Initiative on the steps taken to address the increased GBV during the pandemic. In the main, the Ministry noted its clearance of GBV service providers as essential services; the establishment of mobile One-Stop Centres to offer aid to survivors; and engagement with police officers manning roadblocks to ensure that survivors are not prevented from travelling to seek assistance.
  • The Gender Commission implemented an online and telephonic reporting and case management system. The Commission reported that in 2020 it received 51 cases dealing with GBV in various manifestations.
  • In June 2021, the First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, announced the establishment of a toll-free national GBV helpline. The helpline is a joint project between the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit (VFU)and several service providers, mainly from civil society. The helpline is a confidential reporting mechanism for victims and survivors to connect to the VFU or alternative counselling services.

Legislation

Zimbabwe’s Constitution includes a provision on gender balance, which places a positive obligation on the State to promote the full participation and representation of women in all spheres. The provision goes on to call for measures to rectify gender discrimination stemming from past practices. Beyond this, the Constitution includes the right to personal liberty, equality, dignity, and personal security.

The Domestic Violence Act facilitates the protection-order process for complainants. Domestic violence is defined broadly and notably, ‘harassment’ includes abusive phone calls or electronically-transmitted messages, as well as the delivery of offensive or abusive letters, telegrams, packages, facsimiles or electronic objects.The Act also establishes an Anti-Domestic Violence Council to fulfil a mediatory role, investigate the financial status of complainants and respondents, arrange accommodation and the necessary medical examinations for complainants, and provide counselling.

This Act mandates the Gender Commission to monitor gender equality issues and investigate alleged gender-related violations. In the event that the Commission finds an incidence of prejudice, it must report this to Parliament, including providing recommendations on legislative or administrative reforms.

The Act criminalises various forms of sexual abuse, including r*ape and other non-consensual sexual acts, and the deliberate transmission of HIV and Aids.

Zimbabwe recognises a number of sexual offences including rape, aggravated indecent assault, sexual crimes committed against young persons (defined as anyone under the age of 16 years old) or mentally incapacitated persons, and the deliberate transmission of HIV. The gendered language used in the legislation, i.e., that only a man can be a perpetrator and a woman a victim/survivor, fails to protect a broad range of survivors.

This Act provides guidance on the measures which must be taken for the protection, welfare and supervision of children. Magistrates are authorised to order the removal of a child to a place of safety. It also imposes an obligation on the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to establish and maintain training institutes for the reception of children and young persons. The Act defines a child as a person under the age of sixteen – which does not accord with international standards (which generally define a child as a person below the age of eighteen).

The Marriage Act deals broadly with civil marriage. When it comes to the marriage of minors, it stipulates that such marriages may not be solemnized without the consent of the minor’s legal guardians. This Ac is set to be repealed and replaced by the Marriages Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament

Customary marriages are solemnized under this Act. Limited recognition of unregistered customary law unions has caused tensions with other laws and frustrated women rights activists. This Act is also set to be repealed and replaced by the Marriages Bill.

  • Sexual Harassment Bill and Gender Equality Bill (not yet enacted):

The Ministry of Women Affairs announced that it has received a draft set of principles from the Gender Commission in respect of the Sexual Harassment Bill and Gender Equality Bill. It was estimated that the Bill would be submitted to Cabinet by May 2021 and it is presently unclear whether this has been done. The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) has welcomed the promulgation of new laws and deterrent penalties against perpetrators. The reasons for the slow progress on the Bills remain unclear.

Legislation

Cyberbullying, specifically happy slapping, is recognised in this Act as a form of assault. However, the Act contains gaps as it is limited on the prosecution of perpetrators who generally use mobile phones, as opposed to computers, in the commission of crime and OGBV.

This Bill, which consolidates the approach to cybercrime in Zimbabwe, is awaiting signature by the President. It establishes a Cyber Security Centre and a Data Protection Authority tasked with coordinating and implementing interventions against cybercrimes, and regulating the processing of personal information and guard the right to privacy, respectively.

Policies

Although one of the goals of this policy is to ensure gender equality and equity in the access to and use of ICTs, it does not delve into the detail of how this will be achieved. It is worth noting that the vision stated in the policy is to create a knowledge-based society with “ubiquitous connectivity in 2020”.

National Gender Based Violence Call Centre:

  • Telephone: 575
  • E-mail: n/a
  • Website: n/a

Anti-Domestic Violence Council

Zimbabwe Gender Commission

Musasa Project:

Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association:

Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe:

UNFPA Zimbabwe:

What happened as a result of COVID-19

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