RATIFY! Although Zimbabwe has ratified the Convention on
the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of
Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), it has not yet ratified the Optional
Protocol to CEDAW.
RESPECT! The Coalition of the Campaign remains particularly
concerned by the following violations of women’s human rights in Zimbabwe: the
persistence of discriminatory laws; discrimination within the family; violence
against women; obstacles to access to employment; under-representation in
political life; and inadequate access to health services.
Some positive developments…
The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the recent adoption of several
laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights, including:
• The adoption of a provision within the Constitution (amended in 2005)
prohibiting laws that discriminate on the basis of sex (s. 23). However, a new
Constitution is currently under discussion.
• The prohibition of marital rape within the Criminal Law Act (Codification
and Reform) 2006 (s.68(a)) marital rape.
• The adoption of the Domestic Violence Act 2007, which includes prohibition
of any cultural or customary rites and practices that discriminate against
women such as female genital mutilation, child marriages or forced
• The ratification in 2008 of the Maputo Protocol and the South African
Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development.
DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST
Zimbabwe has a hybrid legal system composed of statutory and customary law.
Whilst statutory law tends to conform to CEDAW, discriminatory customary laws
continue to apply, especially in rural areas.
The law recognises three types of marriage: civil marriage,
registered customary marriage and unregistered customary marriage. The
predominance of registered and unregistered customary marriages contributes to
the vulnerability of women within the family:
• Early and forced marriages under customary law are widespread. In 2004,
the United Nations estimated that 23% of girls between 15 and 19 years were
married, divorced or widowed.
• Although polygamy is prohibited under statutory law, it is authorised
under customary law and continues to be practised in rural areas.
• Whilst civil marriage grants spouses equal rights to parental authority,
under customary marriage men have the right to custody of children.
• The custom of the bride price (lobola), which is authorised under
statutory law, also contributes to women’s vulnerability within the family.
• Under the rules of customary marriage, widows cannot inherit their
husband’s property and daughters can inherit from their father only if there
are no sons.
Despite the adoption of legislation, including the Domestic Violence Act
2007 and reforms to the Criminal Law Act in 2006, violence against women,
particularly domestic violence, remains widespread and perpetrators continue to
benefit from impunity. The lack of training of law enforcement personnel, the
lack of awareness of women’s human rights, the fear of social stigma and
reprisal contribute to the ineffectiveness of such laws. Since the
criminalisation of marital rape, only one case of marital raped has been tried
• Obstacles to access to employment and decision-making
Women in Zimbabwe generally have lower incomes and less job security than
men. Most women are employed in the agriculture, forestry, farming industries
and the domestic sector, in which salaries tend to be low. Women remain
underrepresented in decision-making positions. Despite ratification of the
South African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development,
which sets a target of 50% representation of women in all decisionmaking bodies
by 2015, women are poorly represented in the government of national union of
Zimbabwe. Only 4 women were nominated amongst the 35 members of the new
government. Following the 2008 elections, women represented 15% of members of
the lower House of Parliament and 24% of the upper House.
• Obstacles to access to health
HIV/ AIDS is particularly prevalent amongst women. The 2005/2006 Zimbabwe
Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) revealed an average prevalence rate among
young people of age 15 to 24 of 11.25% among females and 4.45% among males.
Other studies shows that young women make up almost 80% of all infections in
the 15 to 24 years age group. The rate of maternal mortality remains very high
(880/ 100,000 births), in part due to the practice of non-medicalised
abortions. Abortion is criminalised. Women in rural areas face major obstacles
to accessing health services, including having to travel long distances.
THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF ZIMBABWE
• Ensure that the new Constitution contains provisions guaranteeing
the principle of equality and non-discrimination between men and
• Reform or repeal all discriminatory legislation in
conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol.
• Harmonise statutory religious and customary law in
conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol and ensure that where conflicts
arise between formal and legal provisions and customary law, the formal
• Take all necessary measures to guarantee the effective
implementation of the laws criminalising domestic violence and prohibiting
discriminatory customary practices; provide support to victims,
including by establishing a legal aid system; implement awareness-raising
programmes for the general population and training for all law enforcement
• Increase efforts to ensure women’s equal access to employment and
decision-making positions, including by strengthening measures to
combat sexual harassment in the workplace, ensuring employment legislation
applies to private sector employers and regulating the informal sector; and
implementing quotas on representation of women in political positions.
• Ensure women’s access to health services, including
obstetric care and family planning; launch awareness campaigns to inform the
public about contraception and provide contraceptives in order so as to reduce
the number of illegal abortions; decriminalize abortion; and ensure access to
sexual and reproductive health education.
• Provide the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community
Development with the necessary material and financial resources to
enable it to carry out its mandate.
• Adopt all necessary measures to reform or eliminate discriminatory
cultural practices and stereotypes, including through raise awareness
programmes targeting women and men, traditional and community leaders.
• Ratify the Optional Protocol to CEDAW.
• Focal Point: Zimrights
• UNFPA, www.unfpa.org
• Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS)
• Wikigender, www.wikigender.org
THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINT IN ZIMBABWE
ZIMRIGHTS: ZimRights, an indigenous non-profit NGO founded
in 1992, is a network of human rights activists, with a strong grassroots
representation. Zimrights holds inclusive human rights and civic education
workshops and its members often participate in gender sensitisation workshops.
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