Women in Matabeleland have decried the exclusion of female assessors in traditional courts citing that it infringes on their right to justice.
Assessors advise the traditional court and also help in analysing the case and arriving at a verdict.
Speaking at a regional indaba on the inclusion of women as assessors in traditional courts in Bulawayo, Tuesday, women from different parts of the region complained that they were not represented in these courts.
“Women cannot fully express themselves in front of men. There are issues which we can only be more open when talking to other women.
“Unfortunately all assessors are men. In my area in Nkayi, the traditional leadership say they cannot accept a female assessor because it is a taboo,” said Sibongile Tshuma.
Smolia Dube from Matshetsheni in Gwanda said in her area the male assessors take bribes from their male counterparts who would have committed crimes against women, leading to the increased perpetration of injustices against women.
“Those men who sit in courts are given bribes. At the end of the day crimes against women are not solved. Justice is not served. If only there were women who would fairly represent us,” she said.
Mollet Dube added men who sit in the courts tend to intimidate women into silence.
“When we try to talk, men intimidate us. They say words which will make us keep quiet. Some women end up getting into relationships with these men so they can be represented,” said Dube from Mzingwane.
Mary Mhlanga said in Matobo men who commit crimes against women and children are let off the hook.
“Men who abuse our children are left walking free because the matters are not discussed in public. The chief calls his committee to preside over the cases in private. Obviously, these male assessors will rule in favour of their male counterparts.
“At Sgagatsha, women are not given a platform to make any decision,” said Mhlanga.
This is the same case in Mangwe, Plumtree where Tjiyapo Ndlovu revealed that women were looked down upon in all stages of the traditional justice system.
Women suggested that traditional leaders be trained on what the constitution says regarding equal representation so that they include women in their team of assessors.