Hon Theresa Makone who is the Member of Parliament for Harare North and Minister of Home Affairs as well as the chairperson of the MDC Women's Assembly launched the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence in Harare at the weekend.
This year's global theme for the 16 days campaign is: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!
Launching the campaign, Hon Makone said 7 out of every 10 women have experienced violence in one form or another in their life. She said it is documented evidence that cancer, traffic accidents etc do not kill women as much as violence against them.
She called on all women regardless of party affiliation to come together and denounce violence for she said violence does not know nor does it respect any party. She urged women to speak out against violence in order to bring about awareness and therefore deal with lack of knowledge around issues to do with the many forms of violence that can be perpetrated against mostly women and children.
Hon Makone encouraged people to not confine themselves to talking about violence during the 16 days of activism but to continue talking for the 365 days of the year. She said the police should not try to suppress cases of violence but should instead protect the people. Police should also desist from asking about party affiliation when a crime of a violent nature is reported.
She warned perpetrators that the law will catch up with them. She said that it was unfortunate that some women do not report cases of rape because they want to protect their husbands.
Speaking at the same occasion the Deputy Ambassador of Britain Chris Brown said violence against women is human rights violation. He cited many forms of violence against women to include sexual harassment in the workplace, female genital mutilation, use of women and girls as payment to appease spirits, battering of women in the home by spouses or male relatives, trafficking women and girls for sex and cheap labour and denying education to girls.
Deputy Ambassador Brown said sexual violence has been used in war times in some countries as a weapon of war citing Rwanda, Uganda, Colombia and Bosnia among many others.
He said there is no justice and dignity for survivors of wartime rape and sexual violence. He pointed out that the time had come for the world to shatter the culture of impunity for those who use rape as a weapon of war.
He said the balance of shame needs to be shifted away from survivors onto the perpetrators of sexual crimes.
The Executive Director of Women in Politics Support Unit Fanny Chirisa said gender based violence impacts on women's ability to participate in family, community, developmental and political processes. She said the 16 days of activism span over 6 key dates on 25 November; International Day of No Violence Against Women, 29 November; International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, 1 December World AIDS Day, 3 December; International Day for the Disabled, 6 December; Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre where 14 female engineering students were gunned down by a man because they were feminists and 10 December; International Human Rights Day.
The WIPSU director said this year's campaign will focus on, Violence perpetrated by State Actors, Domestic Violence and the Role of Small Arms and Sexual Violence during and after Conflict.
The launch was attended by women and men from Harare North constituency, the headmaster and school children from Hatcliff High School, WIPSU Executive Director Fanny Chirisa, the Deputy Ambassador of Britain to Zimbabwe Chris Brown and the Harare North Member of Parliament Hon Theresa Makone.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence is a global campaign dedicated to ending gender based violence. The dates of the campaign which start on the 25th of November with the International Day for the Elimination of Gender Based Violence and end on 10 December which is the Human Rights Day were chosen to emphasize that gender based violence is a violation of human rights.