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Violence against women a violation of human rights

25 Nov 2017 at 16:50hrs | Views
Today, I join the world to commemorate the international day of eliminating violence against women. This year's theme is "Leave no one behind: End violence against Women and Girls. One in every three women around the world has been a victim of violence. Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.

I have observed that most women feign emotional stability in public spheres whilst they are suffering and broken emotionally. This is due to negative cultural expectations which dictates how a woman ought to behave and present herself. In the face of abuse and ill-treatment a woman is expected to be resilient and embrace any form of hardship and suffering that comes her way. Growing up a young woman is told that "usafukure hapwa", "mukadzi anoshinga".  In a bid to follow what they have been socialised to believe,  many women have painted a sunny picture of their lives, whilst their lived realities depicts a dark, gloomy cloud hanging over their lives. It is fact that many women in Zimbabwe are subjected to gender based violence perpetrated by their husbands, fathers or partners being the chief perpetrators.

Violence against women is the most extreme form of discrimination. The UN reports that "on the basis of data from 2005 to 2016 for 87 countries, 19 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49, said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey. In the most extreme cases, such violence can lead to death. In 2012, almost half of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to 6 per cent of male victims. These figures could actually be a fraction of the reality on ground, taking into account the culture of silence and some unreported cases.

Moreover, only just over half (52 per cent) of women between 15 and 49 years of age who are married or in a relationship make their own decisions about consensual sexual relations and use of contraceptives and health services. That statistic is based on available data from around 2012 for 45 countries, 43 of which are in developing regions."

Another extreme case of violence against women as highlighted by the UN report is that of female genital mutilation/cutting. Great strides are being made to eradicate this harmful practice, resulting in about 24 per cent decline since around 2000. Nevertheless, prevalence remains high in some of the 30 countries with representative data. In those countries, survey data from around 2015 indicate that more than 1 in 3 girls between 15 and 19 years of age have undergone the procedure compared to nearly 1 in 2 girls around 2000.

In the political spheres, women have not been spared of violence tendencies either. As a victim of state sponsored violence, police brutality, rape, discrimination, torture and domestic violence I strongly advocate for the Elimination of any form of violence against women. On the 25th of February this year, I was brutally assaulted by ZRP in riot gear at Parirenyatwa Hospital for protesting against former President Mugabe's $4m birthday bash whilst the biggest referral hospital in Zimbabwe had no medication. Earlier this year Thokozani Khupe,  MDCT Vice President was assaulted by party youths at their party offices.  The violence I experienced made me more resolute in advocating for the promotion and protection of human rights, helping women to think positively about the future as well as moving away from self pity. As a leader, one of my obligatory duties is to inspire change in an effort to have a violent free Zimbabwe.

Most women are traumatized by the violent attacks they have experienced in their lives and many have never received any form of therapeutic interventions or any form of support. Political violence is one critical area that needs redress and today. I urge all political party leaders to make peace pledges and eliminate violence in solving intra party conflict. Women in different spaces experience different forms of political violence including rape and most of these cases are unreported.

Politically-motivated sexual violence against women was prevalent under Mugabe's oppressive regime and was used as a tool to silence and intimidate dissenting voices and repress political opposition. Women are frequent victims of brutality at the hands of police and other security forces, subjected to torture, rape, disappearances, and displacement. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Southern African Development Community Gender and Development Protocol, Mugabe's regime did not respect its commitment to enforce the protocol. I am challenging the incoming President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa to ensure that any forms of violence are condemned and perpetrators of violence, face stiff penalties and the full wrath of the law.

Public violence against women is another challenge for women especially at kombi ranks and bus terminus. Stiff penalties should be in place to deal with the rogue, uncouth, foul mouthed and violent kombi conductors and touts. Dialogue should be used to resolve conflict.

The onus is on us women to be agents of change, we need to socialize our children to shun violence and endeavour to bring up our children in violent free homes. A nation cannot be successful without the contribution of women. Women are naturally endowed with influence. It is imperative that men promote peaceful environments in the home for their spouses to promote peace in our communities. For the woman, peace begins in her home.

I am encouraging every woman who has been a victim of any form of violence to speak out boldly about the importance of eliminating any form of gender based violence. Together we can make a difference in our society.

Linda Tsungirirai Masarira
Human Rights Defender, Aspiring MP Harare Central, Political Activist, Founder and National Coordinator of Zimbabwe Women in Politics Alliance.

Source - Linda Tsungirirai Masarira
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