Zimbabwean women pray for peace throughout the country. The Southern African state is preparing for national elections under a new constitution., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Friday, 29 March 2013 00:00
These days, the most common discussions on public fora centre on gender equality that the Draft Constitution has brought in the country. Some of the discussions have been well-reasoned while others are meant to while up time.
One such discussion I heard while in a commuter omnibus on Monday was when one man joked that with this gender equality and women empowerment measures, it was likely that soon women will be paying lobola and men eloping.
The outspoken middle-aged man said there was no reason why males should continue paying the bride price if the control in the home was being given to women. Someone even added that soon, most men will be left homeless, running away from this gender equality issue.
Some even doubted the applicability of the gender equality clauses that have been introduced under the Draft Constitution. Surprisingly, some women also joined in the discussion attacking gender equality.
This clearly showed that a number of people do not understand gender equality and there is need for activists to provide more information.
Although not yet operational, the law carries an assortment of measures aimed at improving the social status of women in the country.
At first, I thought the discussion was centred on the fact that people did not understand gender equality and the reason for coming up with such laws but as the conversation went on, I felt that there is need for people to be educated on the gender discourse.
Gender equality is the measurable equal representation of women and men. It does not imply men and women are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment. Under the equality of sexes there is equal visibility, empowerment and participation of both sexes in all spheres of public and private life.
According to the United Nations, it requires the acceptance and appreciation of the complementary roles of women and men in society and is critical for development. This is the reason why gender equity is part of the Millennium Development Goals. It is a fact that gender roles are a construct of the society hence the importance to ensure that its teachings are changed to ensure that treatment of both men and women is equal.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) argues such social roles, responsibilities and behaviours believed to belong to men and women; have nothing to do not biological differences between males and females but are a construction by the society. This is the fibre that new laws seek to attack not because it wants to demean men’s role in the family and in the country but harness the energies of the other sex in national development.
It is not a donor driven issue as other people have often suggested but a necessity.
It is unfortunate if we are to take empowerment of women and gender balance (a noble idea) into a battle of disarming men as that will surely not see the country reaching its desired goal.
42 percent of married women sexually abused
Friday, 29 March 2013 00:00
ABOUT 42 percent of married women in the country have experienced sexual and or physical abuse by their husbands, with the highest number of cases recorded in Mashonaland Central Province while Matabeleland North has the lowest rate.
Presenting statistics at the recently ended Zimbabwe Sadc Gender Protocol Summit in Harare, the gender director in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Ms Caroline Matizha, said the “shocking” figures came from a recent Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS).
The summit was convened by Gender Links, a Non-Governmental Organisation, and the report covered people aged between 15 and 49.
She said sexual abuse ranged from marital rape to husbands coming home drunk, presumably from small houses, and forcing their wives to have unprotected sex.
Ms Matizha said although the figures were disheartening, unity of purpose among stakeholders could help in reducing the trend.
“Mashonaland Central Province has the highest number of cases with about 56 percent of married women in the province, having experienced abuse.
“Manicaland follows at 49 percent, Mashonaland West has 47 percent and Mashonaland East 42. Approximately 40 percent of women in Harare and Masvingo have been victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and 39 percent have been bashed or raped by their spouses,” said Ms Matizha.
She said although the figures were lower in Matabeleland, they were still a cause for concern because violence and ill treatment had no place in the in marriage institution.
“In Matabeleland South, 39 percent of women have suffered from abuse, while in Bulawayo 29 percent had been mistreated and only 17 percent had their rights violated by their husbands in Matabeleland North,” she said.
Ms Matizha said despite numerous efforts by Government and development partners, GBV still remained a major challenge in the country.
She said Zimbabwe was party to key international and regional instruments on women’s rights, which included the Convention Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Declaration, Sadc and AU Protocols on Gender, which oblige member states to take measures to address GBV.
“On top of that the Government has enacted a number of laws, policies and guidelines to prevent and protect survivors of gender based violence.
“These include the Domestic Violence Act (2007), which provides for protection and relief to victims of domestic violence. Through the Domestic Violence legislation, women can now seek legal remedies through the justice system while legal literacy campaign at community level to raise awareness on the provisions of the Act and other family laws empower women to protect themselves,” she said.
Ms Matizha expressed concern at the lack of shelters for the treatment of traumatised abuse victims in the country.
“The Government has let us down in this regard. It is only Musasa which provides shelters for victims,” she said.
Ms Matizha said her Ministry had intensified campaigns to raise awareness about the scourge of GBV with a view of reducing cases by about 50 percent as dictated in the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development.
“We have increased interaction with traditional leaders, community leaders and males in the hope that as more people take notice, there will be more peace in the homes. I am optimistic that a collective effort can eventually end GBV,” she said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, the national director of Enkundleni/Padare, the men’s forum on gender, Mr Kevin Hazangwi, said the statistics were a true reflection of the brutality being experienced in homes across the country.
“I am sad to say the statistics are correct. It is frightening that what should ideally be the safest institution — marriage — has become a place where our mothers and sisters feel least safe,” said Mr Hazangwi.
He said he found it highly disturbing that the leading causes of GBV were petty issues like burning food, touching a husband’s mobile phone, or going out of the home without telling the “man of the house.”
Mr Hazangwi said it was time for everyone to really understand gender justice, which called for equal opportunities for both men and women, not empowering one sex by taking away the rights of another.
“I believe spouse abuse can be overcome if we all come together, acknowledge the problem exists and teach men and young boys that violence or force can never be a solution to any problem or disagreement in the home,” he said.
Why did so many people vote “No”
Friday, 29 March 2013 00:00
One question that has done the rounds after the epic approval of the new Zimbabwe constitution is why over 200 000 people voted “NO”? In our set up, there are no post-election opinion polls conducted to find out the voting patterns.
Be as it may, I wanted to find out from a small number of voters I interviewed as to what made them vote “Yes” or “No”. As for the “Yes” vote, quite a number cited the fact that the clause on the land acquisition was a central issue. This clause, according to them, emphasised the taking of land which is now vested in the State.
What this means is that land shall remain the property of the State to be allocated for use to individuals or companies as the State so wishes. In other words, like the British say, their land is Crown land under the sovereign. Ours is State land.
The “No” votes were cast for a very interesting reason. Some said that the Draft Constitution gave too much power to women. They cited the example of a clause which abolishes the death penalty for women. I am sure the death penalty cannot apply to men only. In reality, the death sentences have not been carried out for many years.
Another bone of contention with some men, who either voted “No” or did not vote, was the increase of women Members of Parliament. Under the Draft Constitution, 60 women shall become MPs chosen by proportional representation calculated from votes cast in 210 constituencies for each political party. Not only that, there could be more women MPs if parties fielded women candidates in the constituencies or even if more women made it into the Senate.
If ever there was a progressive to women’s emancipation, this constitution must be applauded. The devil is always in the details which will confirm the realities of giving more say in politics to women. But this can only come to fruition if there is more money to implement the provisions of the constitution. There could be more reasons, than those I have cited, which made some people to opt for a “No” vote. There could be those who were against the land reform programe or who perceived that more power could have been vested in the president. With the advent of so many women legislators, can we expect the next Parliament to be more progressive in the laws debated and acted upon?
History tells us that, in some countries, where women were dominant, women’s rights laws were enacted. Several countries come to mind, that had women leaders of government, to mention just a few, there was Britain’s prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who negotiated the Lancaster House constitution, that we have replaced with the new Zimbabwean Draft Constitution, set to become law soon.
Another woman leader was, former prime minister, Indira Gandhi of India. Although her legacy was characterised by her fight against the Sikh militants that finally gunned her down, it is known that she did a lot to uplift the status of women in that conservative society.
Although it was the prerogative of each individual to vote according to their conscience, it is still quite interesting to know the concerns of those that voted “No”. It is not going to change anything but when the laws are made in Parliament, they could still make their representations on those issues that concern them most.
Another aspect that may calm many voters who may not have understood the implications of the new constitution is that they will still have a chance of having everything explained to them by their representatives in Parliament or when the actual campaigning for the general election is underway. Many men are bitter about the maintenance rulings in the courts already.
They think that the laws favour women to claim a lot of their money to such an extent that they fail to have an alternative life with a new spouse or just to get on in life. These concerns weighed heavily on those who voted “No” thinking that the new constitution has removed male dominance in the scheme of things in the country. Two young male adults, who are professionals, admitted that, they did not go to vote because they were convinced that women were given an upper hand by the new constitution.
One would have thought that, since they were recently married, they were still in love to be afraid of the power of their respective spouses. The conservative nature of men is their genes. Male dominance still runs deep in the veins of some men.
On the whole, the new draft constitution goes on to address most of the issues that should put to rest all the talk about dictatorship, which are spewed daily in some sections of the Press. This confirms the slogan that has always been on the lips of our Comrades in Arms- that is power has been transferred to the people.
There have been judgments in favour of women in our courts which must be regarded as progressive. For example, women can register the births of their babies, women can obtain passports for their children without the father having to sign the passport forms, and women can inherit their parents’ estate even if they are married.
There are those who voted in the negative from being influenced by organisations that see nothing good coming from their own country. Unless something is approved by the Western countries, then it is no good at all. To cite that there was no time to study the constitution after four years of the debate was in the public domain, was just misleading the public.
If anyone did not support the Draft constitution for a lack of time to read the document, then it was unfortunate indeed. It was not the intention of the whole system to deny anyone the right to go through the document. Now, a chance will be coming shortly for the members of various parties to choose candidates to represent them in various constituencies. That must be done peacefully like what happened in the referendum.