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Zimbabwe media's coverage of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
March 08, 2012

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According to Care, a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty, violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread but least recognised human rights abuses in the world. While the frequency of gender-based violence (GBV) varies with location, the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2005 Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women, states that globally, one out of three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries (Care 2010).

This finding is in line with an earlier study by researchers Heise, Ellsberg and Gottemoeller (1999), 'Ending Violence Against Women, which shows that at least one in three of the world's female population has been physically or sexually abused at some time in her life.

There is no single definition or form of GBV. The term is widely used as a synonym for violence perpetrated by males against females.

The Interagency Gender Working Group - a network that promotes gender equity - says the violence may take many forms, such as sexual abuse, physical violence, emotional or psychological abuse, verbal abuse, or beatings during pregnancy.

In its 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the world governing body, the UN, defines GBV in Article 1 as "Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."

Further, Article 2 of the Declaration posits that the definition should incorporate and not be limited to acts of physical, sexual and psychological violence in the family, community, or perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs. These acts include: spousal battery; sexual abuse, including of female children; dowry-related violence; rape, including marital rape; female genital mutilation/cutting, and other practices harmful to women; non-spousal violence; sexual violence related to exploitation; sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in school and elsewhere; trafficking in women; and forced prostitution.

The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action expands this UN definition.

It clearly identifies violence against women as including violations of the rights of women in situations of armed conflict, including systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy; forced sterilization, forced abortion, coerced or forced use of contraceptives; prenatal sex selection and female infanticide. It also recognizes the particular vulnerabilities of women belonging to minorities: the elderly and the displaced; indigenous, refugee and migrant communities; the disabled; women living in impoverished rural or remote areas, or in detention.

Thus, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence became one of several initiatives, mainly by feminists, to raise awareness and eliminate GBV in the world. It came out of the Global Campaign for Women's human rights.

In June 1991 the Centre for Women's Global Leadership with participants from the first Women's Global Institute on Women, Violence and Human Rights (a forum involving 23 women from 20 countries) called for a Global Campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence from November 25 to December 10 in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights, and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.

Notably, the campaign period encompasses four significant dates:

  • The International Day Against Violence Against Women (November 25);
  • World AIDS Day (December 1);
  • December 6, The Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre (when 14 women engineering students were gunned down for being feminists; and
  • December 10 - Human Rights Day.

Since then, activists at the local, national, regional and international levels have observed the campaign every year globally, including in Zimbabwe.

In commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, MMPZ assessed how Zimbabwe's mainstream media fared in raising awareness of GBV as a serious human rights violation and how they contributed to keeping it on the agenda of the country's authorities and policy makers.

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