SW Radio Africa (London)

16 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Women Say Government Not Doing Enough About Political Violence

Violence against women remains one of the biggest challenges in Zimbabwe, especially during election periods, and there are fears the inclusive government has not made any progress to combat this crime.

Women bore the heaviest brunt of the violence in the bloody 2008 elections. Their houses were burnt, property stolen, their children and husbands killed in full view of them and rape became rampant.

On Friday over 300 women from all walks of life gathered in Harare, where they urged the government to tackle violence against women and girls, in particular sexual violence and rape.

The workshop convened by the gender based group, Women in Politics Support Unit, heard that violence against women was widespread during elections in Zimbabwe.

Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said the women, who included vendors, artists, politicians, teachers and other civil servants noted that the terrible consequences of the 2008 violence was still being felt by many Zimbabwean women today, and that the violence continues unchecked.

'In the run up to presidential elections in 2008 the women said they were relegated to mere recipients of violence. Their husbands fled the violence and to force the men to return, ZANU PF militia had a tendency of abducting women and children.

'There were numerous cases of women and children being taken as ransom and forcibly detained in militia bases until their fathers or husbands returned to their villages. Women said they were assaulted, tortured, and sexually harassed,' Muchemwa said.

The workshop in the capital was to help analyse the role of the inclusive government in tackling violence against women and girls. Participants said it must be recognised that poll violence is almost certainly far less widespread than other forms of violence against women, such as domestic abuse, and that combating election violence is only the start of the battle for women's rights.

The women vowed not to leave any stone unturned in ensuring that violence against them is completely abolished.

'The participants said it must be noted that the face of Zimbabwe is changing and women are increasingly in the forefront of the transformation of the society.

Though their efforts are sometimes invisible in the larger world, women are often the real agents of change in society, working to improve the lives of people in their communities even as they struggle to feed and educate their children,' Muchemwa added.

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