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ZWLA

 

CONFERENCE CALL

 

 

 

THEME: ‘Making the constitution work for women and children: Translating gender sensitive constitutional provisions into a tangible reality.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) is an Association of Lawyers whose mission is not only defending, developing and dialoguing on women’s rights in Zimbabwe, but also representing women lawyers as a constituency, to dialogue on their issues and to defend their causes.

 

 

 

At its formation 21 years ago ZWLA intended to defend the professional interests of women lawyers. With time they realised that there was a growing need for legal aid  provision to indigent women so that they were also able to access justice in a bid to ensure a just and equitable society for all. It was also agreed that there was need to address the plights of women in Zimbabwe through advocacy work, lobbying for law reform and defending the rights of Zimbabwean women in general.

 

 

 

It is within the above context that ZWLA in 2014 initiated an annual Women Lawyers Conference which has two main objectives. The first is to dialogue on the issues arising from the legal profession as well as look at progressive ways of improving and developing as legal practitioners in Zimbabwe in the 21st Century. The second is to dialogue on defending women and children’s rights effectively as well as improve the legal trajectory in terms of the laws and the criminal justice system in a bid to ensure that they are gender sensitive. In 2014, over 80 women lawyers participants mainly from Harare, Masvingo, Kwekwe, Bulawayo as well as women lawyers from the diaspora, which included representatives from South Africa and the United Kingdom, attended the first of its kind conference held in Harare which was convened by Zimbabwe Women Lawyers (ZWLA)   in partnership with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). The conference theme was ‘Towards Women Peace and Security: Making the Law Profession Work for Women’.

 

 

This year ’s theme is, ‘Making the Constitution work for women and children: Translating gender sensitive Constitutional provisions into a tangible reality.’

3 & 4 December, 2015

Holiday Inn, Harare

 

 

Zimbabwean women lawyers, especially young lawyers, have expressed concerns over a variety of issues ranging from their inability to penetrate certain spaces within the law profession, the absence of proper mentoring from senior lawyers and the absence of opportunities to develop professionally. ZWLA’s conference seeks to also provide a platform  which will bring Zimbabwean lawyers from all over the world to dialogue on issues which affect them with the aim of providing a lasting solution to their concerns.

 

 

 

ZWLA acknowledges the solidarity from male counterparts within the legal fraternity therefore it is in light of this that ZWLA has a programme termed; ‘Friends of ZWLA’ which works with male lawyers who understand the cause we champion and are empathetic towards the plights of women and children. Friends of ZWLA are also invited to participate in the conference.

 

 

 

Tapping into the knowledge of leading experts, various issues inclusive of but not limited to the following will be discussed:

 

a.    Strengthening Constitutional literacy among Women Lawyers

 

 

 

b.     Overview of Constitutional Advocacy

 

 

 

c.     Realignment of laws to the new Constitution

 

 

 

d.    Constitutional Litigation

 

 

 

e.    Use of International and Regional Instruments in litigation

 

 

 

f.      Knowing the challenges, identifying opportunities and having a personal law career plan.

 

 

 

g.     Navigating different legal careers i.e. how to be a judge, academic or politician etc.

 

 

 

Registration Fee - US$30

 

 

 

Women Human Rights Defenders Awards

 

In addition to the conference, on the 3rd of December, we will also be hosting our annual Women Human Rights Defenders Awards. ZWLA launched the Women Human Rights Defender Awards in 2007 in order to recognize and appreciate the effort made by lawyers towards the promotion and progressive realization of women and children’s human rights.  The award initially targeted lawyers who have done significant work in addressing the law and policy gaps that have subordinated women’s status since independence.  The Awards also targeted lawyers and other Legal experts who have carried out significant work (be it legal representation, lobbying and advocacy, policy analysis and legal research as well as judicial activism, amongst others, in  critical areas that have impacted on women and children’s fundamental rights and freedoms since independence.

 

 

 

The awards have since taken a different turn as they are now considering other non lawyers who are also doing a lot of recognisable work in advancing the rights of women and children. This was as a result of the realisation that there are many people, male and female alike, who are not necessarily members of the legal profession but immensely contribute to the realisation of women and children’s rights who also need to be recognised for their great work.

 

 

 

This year there will be 3 categories of awards and so nominations are being sought for the following categories:

 

 

 

1.     Human Rights Defender(Lawyer)

 

2.     Human Rights Defender(Non-Lawyer)

 

3.     Student Human Rights Defenders

 

For more details, please read attached files or contact:

 

Doreen Gaura: 0777828201 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tariro Tandi: 0772211437 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

 

 

The media is a trusted link between society and what happens within and around it, therefore, as a medium of information distribution it is bound to have an impact on  the society. It therefore has a responsibility to report truthfully and appropriately at all times. Rape and sexual abuse are heinous crimes that impact the core of one’s dignity.This paper provides a brief summary of how rape and sexual abuse crimes are portrayed in three Zimbabwean papers - Bmetro, The Herald, and Southern Eye as reportedbetween January and March 2015.

 

Zimbabwean media tends to trivialize, dramatize and misrepresent cases of sexual violence. Although some papers exercise their social responsibility and do indeed condemn this social ill, the language that is used tends to be playful and dramatic such that the issue ends up being lost in the theatrics.This paper argues that although significant strides have been made in fighting against sexual crimes; there still remains inequality between men and women in society as the media tends to give a ‘voice’ to perpetrators of crimes as opposed to the survivours. This paper thus,focuses on both traditional media and the tabloid press.

 

The role of newspapers in light of unequal power dynamics must be to sensitively present the plight of victims not to revictimise them through ridicule and victim blaming. Zimbabwean newspapers tend to marginalize victims by not affording them a chance to give their testimonies in the same way that the rapist or abusers often are. Presenting the testimonies of the perpetrators or suspects humanizes them and invokes empathy in the reader hence the need to prioritise the victim’s testimony over that of the perpetrator.

 

For example, in Bmetro of 16 March, the article title ‘I only inserted my finger on her privates’ validates the claim by the accused that the crime was not an act of sexual violence as there was no penetration. In its chosen title, the newspaper does not condemn the act of inserting the fingers; it treats it as an acceptable defense, as though inserting fingers in a child’s genitals is not a crime. The same portrayal is used in a number of stories from the same paper as rapists either claim that the victims consented or that they were in love with them. Similarly, in the Southern Eye of January 12 “Man rapes niece 11, promises her mangoes” the rapist claims to have “only fondled” the victim to make her smile.The act of fondling is not rebuked,but is reported as a normal conduct which is not problematic.

 

This paper argues that, giving testimonial room for criminals does not only maintain male dominance but also silences the victims by not giving them space to provide their own testimonies, and also reduces the gravity of the crime as the testimonies, often cavalier, given by the rapists decentre those of the victims. For instance in Bmetro on the 23rd of March, the article “Man intoxicates, rapes neighbour’s wife”, the rapist claims that the act of rape was consensual sexual intercourse as he had earlier taken the victim out for a beer binge and she had consented to payment for sex. Such testimonies are unfair to the victims of rape and sexual abuse as they drive the reader to accept the act of rape as a simple act of sexual intercourse between consenting parties. These testimonies also appeal to the public’s sympathy in favour of the criminal because they justify their actions and question the victim’s claims and morality.

 

Language is manipulative as it can be used to create and uphold certain beliefs about the act of rape, the victim or the rapist. Some papers refer to rape or sexual harassment either as sex adventure, sleeping together or a game. In Bmetro’s article (11 January), ‘Kids raped while others watch’ the paper states that the rapist was discovered after the girls told the teacher of their ‘game’, while in the same publicationon 23 January, it is stated that the rapist hatched a plan where he could play ‘the adult game’. The use of such words does not only trivialise the crime but also raises questions in terms of social responsibility of news reporting in Zimbabwe. Portraying rape as a game or adventure, especially when it involves the harassment and abuse of a minor, is reckless and unjust. It’s the same as claiming or maintaining the fact that the minor consented.

 

Tabloids tend to shift the blame from the abuser to the abused by providing information that the victim exposed herself to danger by either walking at night, drinking with the rapist, or being left alone with strangers. The Bmetro of 11 January has an article titled ‘Man rapes dancing mate as patrons watch’ that justifies the rapist as it claims that the victim danced in a suggestive way and she is said to have caressed the rapist’s manhood.

 

Harare based paper, The Herald, however, is an example of gender sensitive reporting as in most instances it uses terms such as ‘rape’, or ‘alleged rape’ in its reporting. Examples of this are the January 5 article titled ‘Nine year old raped, infected with HIV’ where the paper rightly refers to the incident as ‘rape’ and ‘alleged rape’, as well as a January 12 article titled ‘Motorist rapes 11 year old girl’.  The explicit use of the terms ‘rape’ or ‘alleged rape’ highlight the non-negotiable seriousness of the crime.

 

In conclusion, one can surmise that there is a small difference between the way the traditional media reports on sexual harassment and the way the tabloids do. It also questions the way in which Bmetro dramatizes the stories of rape and questions if newspaper portrayals of sexual harassment crimes are ethical and in line with the Zimbabwean norms and values.  In the course of coming up with catchy headlines that sell papers, newspapers negate their social responsibility and also perpetuate social inequalities.




Zimbabwe has a high prevalence of sexual gender based violence (GBV) and rape is one such form. This article examines the portrayal of incidents of rape and sexual harassment in the media with a specific focus on The Chronicle, 2014. Rape, in this article also includes gang rape and infant rape, among others.

 

De-emphasis of the perpetrator

 

Newspapers habitually pay no attention to the role of the rapists and this makes them implicitly complicit. The portrayal of rape in The Chronicle presents viable examples of the ways rapists’ role and responsibility for rape is often ignored thereby reinforcing rape culture by indirectly placing the blame of the incident on the victim. Rapists and abusers are absolved of their criminal offences through the reporters’ portrayal of incidents.

 

The article titled ‘Sex Starved Teenager Rapes Niece’ (June 26) states that the boy was ‘sex starved’. This headline is not only wreckless but it is void of any gender and child sensitivity. It almost seems as though it seeks to justify the rape of the girl as well as condone the rape of the minor male perpetrator by refering to his abuse as sex.

 

Another article in the same paper titled ‘Man 57 offers girl 6 money for sex’, not only suggests that the sex was acceptable as it was a business transaction, as though between equals, but it further iterates the point that the victim was cheated into believing that a dollar was $5. This is an example of irresponsible journalism as it not only implies that the child is a prostitute with the faculties of an adult but that had the rapist actually given the victim a five dollar note, he would have been vindicated of his crime. Such headlines are manipulations and misrepresentations of facts which absolve sex offenders of their guilt in the more serious offence as they recentre the issue by redirecting focus.

 

In another article headline, ‘Son gives away rapist father,’ (June 18) the statement ‘son gives away’, makes it appear as though it would have been better had the boy concealed the truth.  In another article titled ‘Woman Pleads for Rapist Hubby’s release’ (June 13), the reporter emphasises that the victim was not raped but had consented. In addition, it almost gives the impression that because the perpetrator’s wife has come to his defence, he must therefore get leniency. The reporter does so by mentioning the victim’s many boyfriends, that she had approached her father in the bedroom and  that she had ‘agreed’ to the act. Apart from justifying the criminal act, the article also questions the victim’s morality and blames her for provoking the criminal.

 

The Chronicle, intentionally or unintentionally instils certain perceptions about rape which may be harmful to the victims because in most instances there is always a justification of some sort for the acts of rape. It is therefore necessary that gender is mainstreamed in journalism training therefore improving journalists’coverage of GBV.