Sunday, June 29, 2008

RIGHTS-ZIMBABWE: Women Bear Brunt of Violence

By Ephraim Nsingo

HARARE, Jun 28 (IPS) - "We are too familiar with the violence that was meted upon numerous of us from 1890 when the colonialists came into our country right up to the most recent elections. Chief among these forms of violence is sexual violence, and it concomitant implication, HIV infection. Zimbabwean women now have the lowest life expectancy world wide because of HIV & AIDS -- 34 years."

This from statement issued by the Feminist Political Education Project (FePEP) on Apr. 10, when the country was still waiting for inexplicably-delayed results of the Mar. 29 presidential poll. FePEP expressed the view that regardless of who won, neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe could bring all sides together and move forward in the interests of the whole country.

Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, a former MDC parliamentarian and one of FePEP's coordinators, told IPS that Tsvangirai’s Jun. 22 withdrawal from the presidential run-off "was the right thing for him to do, albeit too late".

"Our position has been consistent; the current problems in Zimbabwe cannot be resolved through an election," said Misihairabwi-Mushonga. "Our society is divided right through the middle and any government would by nature have to be inclusive if we are to seriously work towards resolving the current impasse. The problems in this country will not go away. We should continue to press for dialogue."

While ZANU-PF hastily prepares to swear 84-year-old Robert Mugabe in as president, Zimbabweans continue to count the cost of the party's brutal fight to remain in power.

"Women have suffered most in this violence," said Netsai Mushonga, the Coordinator of the Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe, an umbrella body of Zimbabwean women's organisations. From what we have gathered so far, we expect the number of rape cases to treble. We are yet to sit down as an organisation to do a detailed analysis of the situation."

According to Alouis Chaumba, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Peace Project -- an NGO that documents incidents of political violence -- most male opposition supporters have fled rural areas; leaving women more vulnerable.

Continued . . .
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