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Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association's position on the COPAC draft Constitution
Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA)
October 18, 2012

Today ZWLA takes a bold apolitical stance, in the interest of Zimbabwean women and girls, and announces its support for the draft constitution. After a thorough analysis of the draft, we realize that, though it is not 100% perfect, 75% of the demands coming from women and identified as women's minimum demands at the onset of the constitution making process have been incorporated into the draft.

Women's challenges from the current constitution include marginalization and unequal participation, limited prevention of violations of rights, limited protection of rights and minimal promotion of women's rights.

From the gender audit of the COPAC draft constitution, it is clear that there is provision of a solid legal framework for the protection and promotion of women's fundamental rights and freedoms. It also makes provision for women's participation in the political and other developmental processes of the country whilst providing for prevention of violation of rights. It is comparatively better than the current constitution. The draft constitution has many positive aspects that address historical gender imbalances, including laws and policies that discriminate against women and girls. Since time immemorial women have had to cope with discriminatory laws, policies and practices in this country and these have not been adequately addressed in the 19 times that the current Constitution (Lancaster House) has been amended. For this reason, we celebrate the anti-discriminatory clauses in the draft constitution and the equality principle. With a framework in place, we are expectant that attitudes and practices that discriminate against women will become a thing of the past.

Some of the positive aspects we are celebrating in the draft constitution are to do with the provision for a wide range of socio-economic rights, which will ensure women's participation, respect, promotion and protection of women's rights. Some of these rights include the rights of women in the area of employment, right to education, health including reproductive health, social welfare, property rights and land rights.

The draft constitution also makes provision for the protection of rights of specific groups such as women, children, the elderly and differently- abled people. We are also pleased to note that women will be protected from harmful cultural practices such as pledging for appeasement of avenging spirits (kuripa ngozi). Whilst these practices have been outlawed by the Domestic Violence Act (Chapter 5:16), they have not been outlawed by the current Constitution and this had in the past disproportionately impacted on women's socio-economic and cultural development. The draft also provides for bodily integrity and security of women thus clearly protecting women from all forms of violence such as domestic violence, public violence and sexual violence. Where necessary there will be temporary special measures known as affirmative action to correct past imbalances and ensure that men and women have equal access to opportunities and resources. A specific Gender Commission is created to have oversight on gender equality issues. These are some of the developments that will go a long way in improving women's socio-economic status as well as respect, protection and promotion of their political, cultural and socio-economic rights and fundamental freedoms.

The above advancements are placed within a progressive governance framework that provides for separation of powers and checks and balances that will facilitate enforcement and implementation of the constitutional guarantees making these a reality for the women of Zimbabwe.

The women of Zimbabwe will have a lot to lose if the Copac Draft Constitution does not sail through as it addresses the challenges women face in their daily lives, hence we support it.

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