Back to Index
Women at the forefront of challenging government policy face increasing
July 25, 2007
are suffering increasing repression as they mobilize to confront
the government in the face of a spiralling economic and social rights
crisis in Zimbabwe, according to a new
report released today by Amnesty International.
In the report,
the organization released the findings of a three-week research
mission during which Amnesty International's delegates interviewed
scores of women of all ages throughout Zimbabwe, from both townships
and rural areas.
government needs to address the underlying economic and social problems
that are motivating women to protest -- rather than attacking them
and criminalising their legitimate activities in defence of human
rights," said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
While in Zimbabwe,
Amnesty International spoke to women activists who make up the majority
of the hundreds of Zimbabwean human rights defenders who have been
arbitrarily arrested and detained for engaging in peaceful protest
marches or meetings in the last two years. Delegates spoke to many
women who became human rights defenders following repeated violations
of their rights by the Zimbabwean government.
Most women interviewed
by Amnesty International reported being subjected to beatings and
other ill-treatment while in police custody, in some cases amounting
to torture. Much of the abuse has included sexist verbal abuse and
derogatory accusations aimed at discrediting their character and
work. Some have been detained with their children or while pregnant
in deplorable conditions falling far below international human rights
women have demonstrated incredible resilience, bravery and determination
in the face of increasing government repression. They are aware
of the dangers they face but refuse to be intimidated into submission,"
said Irene Khan.
told Amnesty International that police often accuse them of being
used by the British and American governments to overthrow the Zimbabwean
government and of being agents of regime change. This is often followed
by random beatings, with some women suffering serious injuries,
including broken limbs.
government is not only making false accusations against women activists,
it is also failing to acknowledge its role in creating the desperate
situation in which these women find themselves," said Irene
Khan. "One way in which the government is doing this is by
trying to deny a direct causal relationship between its policies
and the deepening poverty and spiralling human rights crisis in
Clara, a 60-year-old
widow in Masvingo province, is a member of the Women's
Coalition -- a national women's human rights organization. In
2003, Clara spoke out against discrimination against perceived supporters
of opposition parties in food aid distribution in her village at
a community meeting. She was accused by local ruling party officials
of being a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). To
this day, Clara is still not allowed to buy Grain Marketing Board
in Zimbabwe are demanding respect and protection for their own human
rights and the rights of members of their communities -- often in
the face of severe repression, including arbitrary arrest and torture,"
said Irene Khan.
of women human rights activists while in custody has had dire consequences
for the women and their families -- particularly for the children
left behind without care."
Women from both
rural and urban areas in Zimbabwe are finding it increasingly difficult
to buy food, pay for medical care and earn a living to support their
families. The majority of those affected by the government's clampdown
on the informal business sector in 2005 are poor women.
delegates witnessed the desperation caused by daily increases of
prices of basic goods such as food and transport, while most people's
wages remained static. In every location visited by the organization,
women were desperately trying to sell their goods, while at the
same time trying to avoid being arrested and having their goods
confiscated by police.
Many women human
rights defenders are not allowed to buy maize from the GMB simply
because they belong to human rights organizations or speak out against
discrimination or other violations in their communities -- in violation
of their right to adequate food.
of state in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) need
to redouble their efforts to end human rights violations in Zimbabwe,"
said Irene Khan. "At their next summit meeting in Zambia in
August 2007, SADC leaders should insist that President Mugabe immediately
stop the intimidation, ill-treatment, torture and harassment of
critics of government policies."
activists are an important resource for the development of Zimbabwe
and must be seen as such by the government. They play a pivotal
role in addressing the many human rights challenges the country
is facing. The government must acknowledge the legitimacy of their
work and stamp out any discrimination against women."
Amnesty International delegates made several requests for
meetings with government officials to discuss their concerns --
both in person and in writing -- but were refused an interview on
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.