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Political violence against women spotlighted in the run up to Zimbabwe’s elections
During the recent visit of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, at a meeting organized by the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCOZ) and facilitated by UN Women Zimbabwe, more than 30 women from various organisations gathered at the United Nations complex in Harare.
Among the concerns shared, was the lack of access to quality health care for many Zimbabwean women, and its effect on the rising maternal mortality rates. 960 out of 100,000 women die in child birth according to the 2010-2011 Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey.
In light of the upcoming elections, the women activists told the UN Human Rights Commissioner that the threat of political violence targeted at women is a major cause for concern.
The side-lining of women in public life was discussed during the meeting. This includes their limited expression in and through the mainstream media; the absence of a legislated quota in the draft Constitution (to increase women’s representation in politics and governance in the upcoming elections); and women’s continued low economic status.
In her opening remarks at a press conference on 25 May, Navi Pillay reiterated the obstacles to women’s full enjoyment of their human rights in the country, making reference to the rising levels of sexual and domestic violence against women and girls, and the threat of political violence targeted at women in the lead up to the elections.
Activists cited the wide gap between existing laws and policies, and the implementation of such provisions, as a major barrier to women’s equality. For example, although women can obtain passports, birth certificates and other national identity documents in their own right as citizens, they are often sent away by the Office of the Registrar General to bring their husbands or a male relative with them to obtain these documents.