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ZLHR commemorates International Women’s Day
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

March 08, 2013

On the day of commemorating the International Women’s Day under the theme; Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) takes opportunity to reflect on progress made so far in promoting and protecting the rights of women (including women living with HIV). ZLHR reiterates the importance of promoting and protecting of women’s rights through programmes and policy that facilitate the meaningful enjoyment of these rights by all women including women living with HIV who bear the burden of the disease in the families and communities.

ZLHR remain concerned at the violation of rights of women as evidenced by the continued use of force by the police against, and arrests of, peaceful women protesters. This on-going practice of arrests against the activists seriously hampers their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, which are essential components of democracy.

ZLHR in its work is continuing to empower the women to stand for their rights so as to enjoy the freedoms and entitlements due to them as much as everyone else. Emphasis has been and continues to be on advocating for the inclusion of the right to health in the new constitution. This has been informed by the fact that the right to health and most particular the right to sexual and reproductive health entitles HIV-positive women to access treatment, care and health related services necessary for them to maintain a status where they can pursue their daily activities, and to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Specifically ZLHR notes that:

  • The women especially positive women still struggle to access medical care when they are pregnant. This has unnecessarily increased the danger of the women transmitting the virus to the new born babies.
  • Women continue to be disproportionately infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. More than half of all people living with HIV are women, and women continue to be at high risk of HIV infection and of related rights abuses.
  • Positive women are still at risk of being arrested under the Section 79 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, where HIV is criminalized and women are at a greater risk of being arrested as they visit the health care systems more often than their male counterparts. Furthermore, they are obliged to get tested for HIV when they are pregnant which adversely impacts on them when the blame of who infected who is made.

In this regard, ZLHR therefore calls on the Zimbabwean government to:

  • Provide adequate information, means and services for HIV-positive women to take measures to maintain good health as is reasonably possible to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  • Increase efforts towards raising more funds for the healthcare system. Make sure that funding is availed to ensure the access of medication and treatment by women especially for their maternal health.
  • Show commitment to their duty to respect, protect and fulfill basic human rights as an important effort towards universal access and highest attainable standard of health for all and more particular for women.
  • Reform laws that are out-dated and those that blatantly violate the rights of those living with, affected by or vulnerable to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Including the reforming of the Section 79 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act which criminalizes HIV and mostly seen targeting women.
  • Guarantee the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression without fear of persecution, arrest and intimidation.

Visit the ZLHR fact sheet

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