The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (The Forum) joins the world in observing the International Day for Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. The resolution to mark this day was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 19 June 2015. It is an observance day to raise awareness on the need to put an end conflict-related sexual violence.
The United Nations defines conflict related sexual violence as “rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked (geographically or casually) to conflict.” It causes long term trauma to individuals and their communities.
Whilst sexual violence may be inflicted regardless of gender, historically women and girls are exposed to a higher risk of violence. Such violence results in losses on both sides, not least the women and girls victimized by perpetrators who have weaponized sexual violence as a tactic of torture and terrorism. It is imperative that we do not allow the atrocities to persist with impunity to become normalized and entrenched in society. Conflicts aggravate pre-existing patterns of discrimination against women and girls exposing them to higher risk of violence.
On 18 May 2021, Zimbabwe was one of the 15 States that voted against a United Nations General Assembly Resolution seeking to protect vulnerable groups against genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court recognizes sexual violence in conflict as a war crime and a crime against humanity. The United Nations said the measure comes as a response to instances worldwide of civilians experiencing indiscriminate attacks on schools and medical facilities, widespread rape and sexual violence perpetrated as a weapon of war. The country’s vote against the UN Resolution is indicative of government policy on war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide etc.
The Forum further notes that despite Zimbabwe not presently being in conflict, violence against women remains a concern. The Gukurahundi atrocities between 1982 and 1987 were rife with murder, widespread torture, rape, and other sexual offences including genital mutilation. The victims of these atrocities have not received any redress and the Government has been complicit in the lack of accountability and justice.
The case of the Movement for Democratic Change Member of Parliament (MP) Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova who were abducted by unknown state agents and were tortured and sexually assaulted is prime example that sexual violence remains a tactic used by powerful men to oppress and torture women. Section 52 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe grants every person the right to bodily, psychological integrity and freedom from all forms of violence from public or private sources. Sexual violence remains one of the most vicious forms of attack and has far reaching mental, physical, and emotional effects on the survivors.
Considering this, the Forum calls upon Government to strengthen their response to sexual violence by:
- Facilitating access to justice through efficient and independent reporting systems • strengthening protection systems for survivors
- Providing government-funded psychological care to survivors
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum