In 2020 the Institute for Young Women Development conducted a study on the gendered effects of conflict on justice and social cohesion in Zimbabwe focusing on Mashonaland Central Province. The study sought to unravel the relationship between conflict, justice and social cohesion, the research report is out, read on for more insight.
Gender, conflict and social cohesion
Social cohesion is the glue that bonds society together. Social cohesion promotes social harmony and a sense of community belonging. It entails the respect for human rights, a socio-economic system based on distributional equity, and high levels of bringing social capital12. Although conflict still persists where these attributes exist, it’s consequences are less severe. There is a positive correlation between high social cohesion and the ability to effectively manage and transform conflict. In Zimbabwe, the gendered nature of conflict works to undermine social cohesion. The highly gendered nature of conflict means that women and men experience conflict and violence differently. The gendered nature of political violence in Zimbabwe is such that violence is directed at women not only because they belong to a particular opposition group but also because they are women. The character of the Zimbabwean conflict has been such that women are often specifically targeted with highly gendered forms of violence. Violence against women and girls is a serious challenge in Zimbabwe, especially the violence perpetuated by uniformed forces of men against women and girls.
Violence Against Women in Politics (VAWIP) as an affront to social cohesion and access to justice
During elections, women voters and candidates experience devastating sexual extortion, physical violence, harassment and intimidation from their male opponents and contenders in political parties. The Zimbabwean political landscape has been, since independence, violent in nature. The violent nature of the Zimbabwean politics is such that politics is the preserve of those that can perpetrate violence better, making politics an unsafe venture for women. This deeply impedes their free and fair participation in the process. For young women, political violence is multi-layered, with women in rural areas who are in opposition politics experiencing the thickest of the layers. Firstly, the violence targets them as women in general. Secondly, it disproportionately affects them as young women. Thirdly, it affects them as young women who are in opposition politics. Fourthly, it affects them as young women in rural areas where avenues for redress of survivors of violence are almost non-existent. Women in Mashonaland Central fear both profound physical violence in relation to their electoral participation, as well as more subtle forms of intimidation and domestic violence. Women told this researcher that what is even more worrying is the impunity that the perpetrators of political violence enjoy. They feel that approaching institutions such as the police, which should ordinarily provide redress for such injustices through facilitating arrests and prosecution of the perpetrators, is tantamount to applying for re-traumatization. This deters them from seeking justice.
Access the full research report here (1MB PDF)
Source: Institute for Young Women Development