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women - defending the rights of a nation: Preliminary report on
political violence against members of WOZA
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA)
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Over the past
seven years, Zimbabweans have experienced the virtual total transformation
of their economic and social world. The formal economy has collapsed,
producing intense social dislocation, emigration and extreme forms
of poverty. This disintegration of the underpinnings of an entire
society has been brought about by the abuse of power by a political
party and government, which have seemingly deliberately brought
misery to the lives of millions of Zimbabweans. When political opposition
grew and civil society organisations mounted protests, the government
responded with draconian legislation as well as extra-legal actions,
which have silenced all but the bravest of government critics.
One civic organisation
which has refused to be silenced is a grassroots women's social
justice movement, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). It has continued
to protest in the streets, claiming the right to freedom of expression.
These protests have resulted in frequent arrests and extreme brutality
perpetrated against the members by law enforcement agents.
members occur with regularity in spite of the obligations of the
Zimbabwean government under both domestic and international law.
The Bill of Rights in the Zimbabwean
constitution protects freedoms of assembly and of expression.
Zimbabwe is also party to numerous international instruments which
commit the government to guarantee freedoms of speech, assembly,
and freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Among these are the Universal
Declaration on Human Rights, the International Convention on
Civil and Political Rights and the African
Charter on Human and People's Rights.
report reflects some of the initial findings of a research study
of the violence experienced by WOZA members at the hands of state
agents. The full report documenting the extent and nature of the
violations perpetrated against members of WOZA will be released
in due course. This report is issued before the study is completed
in order to draw attention to the risks faced by women activists
in view of the fact that Southern African Development Community
(SADC) member states have recently stated that free and fair elections
can be held in Zimbabwe early next year.
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