Tracking politically motivated violence against women in Zimbabwe

With elections in Zimbabwe expected later this year, human rights groups are preparing for the surges of violence and torture that have become a disturbingly common feature of Zimbabwean elections. Women, in particular, have been heavily targeted during these election periods, resulting in a chilling effect on women’s participation in the political process. This is especially troubling since participation in the political process is an important aspect of reducing inequality and securing basic human rights.

According to the Zimbabwean Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), in the three months around the June 2008 elections, an estimated 2,000 women and girls were raped by state-sanctioned groups.

RAU has followed this issue closely, extensively monitoring and reporting on the phenomenon of politically motivated violence, particularly as it relates to women. In a 2009 documentary entitled “Hear Us”, RAU partnered with Witness to record the accounts of four women whose lives were tragically and permanently affected by the violence of the 2008 elections.

During the recordings, one of the women makes a compellingly simple request of aspiring politicians: “I want them to realise that a woman is also a human being just like them…we wish that they would understand that when they are campaigning, they should not beat people, chase people away from their communities, burn people’s houses; all that should not happen in life”

The IRCT has recently partnered with RAU to support a new initiative entitled “An innovative approach to monitoring political violence against women in Zimbabwe.” Under this project, RAU will develop and test a hub for enhanced monitoring of violence and torture against women in the lead-up to the 2012 elections. This will include a real time reporting systems with a warning system in place for human rights defenders and communities at risk, the collection of data that would support legal actions, and the production of advocacy reports on violence and intimidation against women. The goal is to provide women with practical support tools with the aim of reducing incidents of violence, ending impunity for perpetrators and providing research to better understand and monitor the problem of political violence against women. If successful, a similar model may be developed in other countries in the region.

As the election draw closer, the IRCT will keep you updated on the progress of this project.

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