Presented to The Human Rights Council, June 2008 Session, Geneva, Switzerland
We, the Zimbabwean women and women worldwide, urgently call for an end of violence in Zimbabwe and protection of women and girls, in this post election catastrophe. This is an emergency as the country gears up for a presidential run-off on the 27th of June 2008.The violence persists and is real. No election observers are yet in the country, despite our calls, appeals, cries to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations. Zimbabwe is a full signatory to CEDAW.
We are watching a silent genocide of the poor and powerless, due to politically induced murders, criminal actions, and collapse of basic services, resulting in deaths due to lack of health care, food, shelter for the displaced, especially after the March 29, 2008 elections. Most of the affected are women and children.
- The post election murders, burnings, lootings and intimidation have most affected women and girls since these murders are rural-targeted and 80 per cent of women live in rural areas.
- Over 800 homes have been burnt down, making it traumatic for mothers who have to feed the children and care for the sick.
- Over 10,000 people have fled their homes, are displaced and squats with relatives and with fear of going back home. Displaced children are not in schools
- Over 50 people have been murdered in cold blood, mostly from the opposition.
- An estimated 7,000 teachers have fled their schools as a number have been beaten in the eyes of parents and pupils.
- Doctors for Human Rights report that over 2,000 serious cases of physical torture and beatings have passed through their hands and a lot of those they treated have suffered serious fractures to an extent that most are permanently handicapped.
- The oldest victim of the post election violence is an old woman with 12 grandchildren, all of them orphaned and whose son is alleged to have campaigned for the opposition.
- The youngest female victim is a 15-year-old girl who was stripped naked together with her pregnant mother, forced to lie down and beaten on the breasts and buttocks. Many women have been so battered.
- Several girls and women are feared raped. The youngest child seriously assaulted is only three years.
- More than 3,000 Zimbabweans die every weak due to AIDS. Life expectancy is 34 years for women.
- Unemployment is 80 per cent and inflation is 165,000 per cent and the highest in the world.
- 200,000 women have been made homeless and jobless by the government's 2005 Operation Murambatsviina. Women’s church gatherings are disrupted, women are beaten up and abused while at prayer.
- Over three million Zimbabweans are in South Africa where they are facing xenophobic attacks.
This situation is an extra-ordinary emergency for women and girls. Every person and institution must do everything in their power to stop the violence, restore rule of the law, and allow Zimbabweans to exercise their right to vote and live in peace.
We, as Zimbabwean women and women worldwide:
Re-iterate the long-standing position of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), that the failure of the government and law enforcement, such as police and army to respect the rights of all citizens is the greatest threat to peace, democracy and development in Zimbabwe.
Are really concerned by a real danger of civil strife catalysed by the growing humanitarian crisis. We are witnessing increasing levels of tension and political polarisation among the population, which turned out to vote last 29 March. The media reports on the party political position adopted by the law enforcement, which should ordinarily maintain neutrality. The recent purchase of military weapons adds to this fear.
Call for the immediate cessation of organised and targeted intimidation against the citizens, particularly the use of women and girls as weapons of “war,” evidenced by the brutal battering of women’s buttocks, rape and sexual abuse.
Demand the immediate disbanding of the militias, comprised of youths, security agents and one terror group codenamed Chipangano, which have caused terror and havoc in the rural and urban areas, exacerbating the humanitarian situation by creating internal refugees. We demand the disbanding of torture bases where gross abuses of women are taking place including forced labor (cooking and cleaning) and sexual abuse.
Request the Leadership of SADC, the African Union and the United Nations to effectively engage with the ZANU PF government to stop using violence against its people and take tangible actions if the violence continues.
Request especially the Human Rights Council to:
I. Establish a programme of engagement with Zimbabwe for the protection of human rights especially for women, girls and children. The UN must deploy human rights monitors during the run-up to the Presidential Elections.
II. Mandate and support the UN Special Rapportuer on Violence Against Women in implementing a fact-finding mission in Zimbabwe and support the efforts of community, grassroots and other organisations living in a culture of fear, and survivors of violence and abuse.
III. Mandate and support the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in putting in place ways of ensuring safety and protection for women human rights advocates and activists, who find themselves in fear of life and whose ability to engage publicly is compromised.
IV. Engage the Zimbabwe government and authorities, for the latter to stop the violence, and demand the state to protect ordinary people’s lives.
V. Encourage and support humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, especially in support of food, health and education for rural communities and mostly the displaced.
Zimbabwe Women’s Coalition
Girl Child Network
Rozaria Memorial Trust