Violence against women during month against gender-based violence

The month of November saw the annual celebration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence by various sectors of the Zimbabwean society countrywide. Ironically, in a country which would seem devoted to the issues of the protection of women and men against politically motivated gender violence, as exemplified by the debates on the Domestic Violence Bill in Parliament, the month of November saw no exception in the harassment of women who were celebrating this event.

On 29 November 2006 at 11:00 am women from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) held a peaceful demonstration near Mhlahladlela government offices in Bulawayo to commemorate the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence and to launch a document the group calls ‘The People’s Charter’. The document reportedly advocates for affordable healthcare, education and housing in Zimbabwe. During the reading, anti – riot police arrived and started assaulting the women and arrested 57 of them for having an illegal demonstration. It is reported that the women were assaulted whilst in detention. Furthermore, 23 of the arrested demonstrators were released on the night of 29 November for medical care. However, 34 other members of WOZA remained in police custody and were only released on 1 December 2006 after having appeared in court.

The Human Rights Forum notes with concern the Government of Zimbabwe’s continued assault on members of WOZA in 2006. It should be noted that the harassment and torture of these women or any other citizens by the police, army, CIO operatives or any other state agents, will not negate Zimbabwe’s moral obligation to provide accessible, affordable, available health care, education, housing nor address the many other concerns raised by these women. Moreover, the 7th acquittal of WOZA members by the Zimbabwean courts lends credence to the notion that the allegations levelled against them over the years are vexatious and frivolous.

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