Women legislators on Tuesday held a peaceful demonstration in Parliament urging the government to move with speed in advancing women’s rights provided for in the international treaties and protocols Zimbabwe is a signatory to.
This comes ahead of the International Women’s Day commemorations on March 8 under the theme ‘I am generation equality’ realising women’s rights, which mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Female Members of Parliament (MPs) challenged the government to adhere to the Beijing Plus+ Declaration and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
All the female legislators sat on the floor in Parliament on Tuesday.
ZANU PF Mashonaland West Member of Parliament (MP) Goodluck Kwaramba said women parliamentarians are concerned about the country’s regression in the implementation of CEDAW as gender-based violence is on the rise along with sexual harassment.
“We as the Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus have noted that there is regression in the implementation of CEDAW and the Beijing Plus + 25 Declaration in the areas of gender-based violence which is on the increase, passion killings that are the order of the day, sexual harassment and abuse of women and girls in the workplaces and public spaces,” said Hon Kwaramba.
“We are worried about the deterioration in the health sector and its impact on access to maternal health care including legal safe abortions, worried about the state of preparedness in the face of coronavirus that has ravaged citizens globally and other non-communicable diseases, lack of supportive infrastructure for female Parliamentarians seeking child care services and lactation facilities. Gravely disturbed about the machete gang attacks on both men and women, girls and boys and of particular concern is the sexual abuse of elderly women, 80 years and above, subjecting them not only to rape but also murder.”
Hon Kwaramba hence called upon the government to address these issues in line with the Beijing Plus + Declaration.
“Now therefore in line with the Beijing + 25 Declaration, which is the theme for CSW 64, with its key 12 Critical Areas, call upon the government to enact an enabling environment for teenagers to decide, access reproductive services and to safe abortion in line with Critical Area 3 and 12 on women and health and the girl child. Increase funding towards the health sector, especially maternal health and reproductive health as well as child mortality and access to cancer services in line with Critical Area 3 on women and health,” said Hon Kwaramba.
The MP added that the government also needs to avail funds for institutions responsible for dealing with gender-based violence and also empower rural women.
“The government also needs to equip relevant stakeholders that deal with gender-based violence with adequate financial and human resources; police, health sector, traditional healers and church leaders in line with Critical Area 4, on violence against women and fully empower the rural women in line with Critical Area 1 and 6 on women and poverty and women and the economy,” she said.
Hon Kwaramba also requested the parliament to implement gender policies in all institutions so that sexual harassment and violence against women will be dealt with.
“We call upon Parliament of Zimbabwe to expedite the implementation of the institutional gender policy which provides for institutional mechanisms to deal with sexual harassment and violence against women in line with Critical Area 8 on institutional mechanisms,” she said.
Meanwhile, National Assembly speaker, Jacob Mudenda revealed that the issues raised were very important and they will be tabled so that they are debated in the National Assembly and the Senate.
“This is a very important statement, a statement that refers to motherhood and the principal importance of motherhood, it is suggested from the Chair that perhaps a motion be tabled so that the August House, perhaps in the National Assembly and in the Senate, debate the motion accordingly in order to reinforce the message that has been delivered through Hon. Kwaramba on behalf of the Women’s Caucus. Thank you for your peaceful demonstration in the House,” said Hon Mudenda.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) gender Based Violence remains a huge problem in the Country. The Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey for 2015 confirms that violence against women and girls remains a huge problem. At least 1 in every 3 women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and 27 percent of women 15-49 have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.