Orange The World : End Violence Against Women Now!
In 2020, Time Magazine named the Mirabal sisters as part of its “100 Women on the Year”. What made the Mirabal sisters’ entry outstanding was that unlike most women on the list, these three women had passed away more than 50 years before!
Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal’s sisterhood was held together by the glue of the love they had for their country, the Dominican Republic. One would never have imagined that such strong political resistance would emanate from these simple middle-class farm girls. But living under Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship was not for the faint hearted. The three sisters soon became the leaders of an underground movement challenging the regime and were repeatedly arrested for their activities.
On the 25th of November 1960, the three were assassinated. They soon became the martyrs of the revolution which helped solidify resistance to Trujillo both at home and abroad. Before their deaths, Minerva was quoted saying, “ If they kill me, I’ll reach my arms from the tomb and I’ll be stronger”. And stronger she was!
In 1981, women’s organisations undertook to commemorate the 25th of November as the day against gender-based violence. On the 7th of February 2000, the General Assembly, through resolution 54/134, officially designated the 25th of November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Orange The World : End Violence Against Women Now!
The theme this year is simple and straight to the point: violence against women must be stopped immediately. It is a matter we can no longer afford to procrastinate. Violence against women encompasses many aspects and is not just limited to physical abuse. Violence includes but is not limited to: intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, emotional and psychological abuse, female genital mutilation and child marriages.
Orange is the colour designated by the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. As a bright and optimistic colour, orange represents a future free from violence against women and girls. That is why all over the world, different buildings – including the Parliament of Zimbabwe – were illuminated with orange lights on the evening of the 24th of November as a pledge to stand against gender based violence. The orange light represents a brighter future that is free from violence for women and girls. And the lighting-up ceremonies marked the beginning the 16 Days Against Gender Based Violence.
Women Around The World and in Zimbabwe
According to UNWomen, at least 1 in 3 women are abused in their lifetime and only 1 in 10 of these women report their cases to the police. The UN further records that in about 37 countries worldwide, rape perpetrators are exempt from prosecution if they are married or show that they will eventually marry their victim. In 49 countries, there is no law protecting women from domestic violence. And the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) states that 1 in 3 women in Zimbabwe between the ages 15 – 49 have experienced physical violence. They go on to say that 1 in 4 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 in the country and according to Zimstat, 5% of girls are married by the age of 15 and 33.7% by the age of 18. The highest number of child brides is in Mashonaland Central, where 52.1% of the girls in the province are married before the age of 18. The statistics are nothing short of alarming. In order to ensure that no one is left behind , we now need to actively pledge to correcting these numbers.
The Laws Protecting Women
The Constitution of Zimbabwe has numerous rights pertaining to the welfare of women. In section 17 under the National Objectives, Zimbabwe pledges to achieve gender balance. In section 80, the rights of women are elaborated. Section 80 emphasises women having the same rights as men and also outlaws any customs, traditions and cultural practices which infringe any constitutional right that a woman holds.
Overall, Zimbabwe has about 17 pieces of legislation which give effect to the constitutional rights of women with one of the most notable being the Domestic Violence Act. Under the Domestic Violence Act, women are protected from, inter alia, physical beatings, sexual harassment and even cat-calling. And the Criminal Law Code’s definition of the crime of rape includes rape within marriage.
Zimbabwe is also party to several international agreements including the Maputo Protocol and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. [Information on Zimbabwe’s Compliance with the Maputo Protocol can be found on our VeritasWomen website.
At this juncture, it is also important to mention that the legal age for marriage under the Constitution is 18 and that the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court outlawed child marriages through the case brought to the courts by Veritas in the Mudzuru judgment .
Leaving No Woman Behind
There is an obvious disjoin on what is on paper as law in Zimbabwe and the facts on the ground when it comes to the rights of women. As a nation, we have started the walk to leave no woman behind but the journey ahead is still long. There is a need to make a concerted effort to bridge the gap between what we say we will do and what we have actually done. This is to not only protect the rights of women but also to end violence against women now!
As mentioned above, the statistics are alarming. The reality on the ground is suffocating the average woman. We are not giving our girls a chance for a better future. We are not giving our women a chance for a brighter future. We must ask ourselves, what sort of Zimbabwe are we moulding if we continue to overload the burden the Zimbabwean woman must carry on her back.
As Antonio Gutteres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said “ violence in any part of society affects us all. From the scars on the next generation to the weakening of social fabric”.
As we commemorate this day, we call upon the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Communal Development to pledge itself to fighting for the rights of women. We call upon the Ministry to fight for rights to be practically implemented and to join the active fight against child marriages. We also call upon all Zimbabweans to remember that women’s rights are human rights and the time to commit to these rights is now.
At this time, we should also recognise all the women who have gone before us and those that are taking an active role in the fight for women’s rights in our nation – both individuals and organisations.
For your work we say #Womandla, aluta continua, thank you.