THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Index of articles surrounding the debate of the Domestic Violence Bill

  • ZIMBABWE: Gender activists protest MP's anti-women remarks
    October 11, 2006

    View the index of articles on the debate around the Domestic Violence Bill

    HARARE - Women's organisations are outraged by an opposition parliamentarian who urged the national assembly not to pass a bill aimed at stamping out domestic violence, because women were inferior to men.

    During debate on the Domestic Violence Bill, Timothy Mubhawu, member of parliament (MP) for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told parliament: "I stand here representing God the Almighty. Women are not equal to men. This is a dangerous bill, and let it be known in Zimbabwe that the rights, privileges and status of men are gone."

    His remarks in the wake of disclosure by gender and women's affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri that over 60 percent of all murder cases in Zimbabwe were linked to domestic violence, sparked spontaneous protests.

    Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF government rarely permits demonstrations, but more than 200 people from the Women's Coalition, an umbrella body for 35 women's organisations, protested outside parliament in the presence of police, petitioning MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai to ensure that Mubhawu apologised for his remarks. The ZANU-PF women's league joined the protest.

    "This Bill seeks to bring harmony in the home, and if parliament is not going to protect women and children, who will? Women are the majority of the voters and we therefore feel betrayed," the coalition said in a statement.

    Betty Makoni, founder of the Girl Child Network, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) working in 32 of Zimbabwe's 58 districts, commented, "The MP made some very outrageous and gender-insensitive statements, and we have to express our anger by marching against him - he has made a lot of people angry. It is unfortunate that such statements should come from an official who should be representing both women and men in parliament."

    Earlier this year the network said it had recorded a monthly average of 700 rapes of girls aged up to 16 in 2005, or more than 8,000 cases annually, of which 93 percent were girls and 7 percent were boys.

    The bill, first mooted a decade ago, has drawn widespread support from the international community. The Swedish embassy said in a statement that "prioritisation of women and children rights is an area which requires more attention globally. Society definitely needs to do more in this area and the introduction of the bill, albeit belatedly, is a move in the right direction."

    After accepting the petition from the women, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of a faction of the MDC, said Mubhawu had merely expressed his personal opinion. "As a party we respect women and their rights. We believe you are right in condemning violence and sexist statements made by those who were certainly not representing the views of the party," he told the crowd.

    "The challenge that I pose to you, as women, is that you must not be selective in your revulsion for violence. We did not see these kinds of demonstrations when other women, such as Lucia Matibenga, were brutally assaulted by the police while in police custody. Violence is violence and it must always be condemned."

    Matibenga, vice-president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, and several other women from the labour federation were allegedly assaulted last month by the police for organising protests over the worsening economic conditions in the country and the government's failure to provide anti-AIDS drugs to people living with HIV. Matibenga is now partially deaf as a result.

    Annual inflation in Zimbabwe is hovering at around 1,000 percent and unemployment levels are above 70 percent. Food, treated water and fuel are in short supply, and power outages are common.

    Members of other women's organisations seen to be in opposition to President Robert Mugabe's government, such as Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) have allegedly been beaten and detained by police, without any public condemnation by the ZANU-PF women's league.

    Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.