'Traditional courts oppressing women'

HARARE - The patriarchal nature of traditional courts is providing prime ground for the abuse of women by their male counterparts, a continental network has said.

Women Empowerment Scribes Africa (Wefsa) claims the courts have fuelled Gender Based Violence (GBV) against women.

“Traditional kangaroo courts are the most oppressive for women in Zimbabwe. Women in Zimbabwe often get hauled before traditional courts for petty offences and get judged by a panel of men,” Wefsa said in a statement.

“Our society persecutes women and judge them unfairly based on outdated and out of context traditional laws which openly subject women and girls to a self-perpetuating vicious cycle of poverty, violence and abuse. The law is there but many women suffer in total silence and never report violations or seek justice. It is even worse for our girls and women in the rural areas because traditional law certainly disadvantages women and girls in a way which make them targets for gender violence and abuse.”

Chief Enos Pfungwa Musarurwa in response said they have been working with Women Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri and organisations such as Musasa Project for a very long time to actually stem GBV.

“I am not saying there is no-one still doing wrong but let us not run the risk of generalising,” Chief Musarurwa said.

“The year 2014 is a year full of life and as children of Zimbabwe, Africa and the world, let us unite, respect and teach each other when we see wrong, not derogating each other’s power. Doing so lead us into thinking these people could be doing this for money. If you study history, you will see most civil wars have been caused by trying to remove traditional institutions.

“Mbuya Nehanda is still celebrated today, which is proof that our tradition has always celebrated women.”

Wefsa claims traditional courts have become male affairs, presiding over the fate of their inferior counterparts.“Best described as unfair to women, traditional kangaroo courts leave thwarted women seeking justice vulnerable as targets of gender violence and abuse,” the Wefsa statement said.

“These courts never have a woman who sits on them. We call for women to be part of the traditional courts now!” said the organisation challenging its audience to begin talking about them.

The country has made strides by enacting and adopting laws that protect women and promote their emancipation.

“However, the successes of such laws have for been deemed unsatisfactory as women continue to shy away from using them because of lack of knowledge, confidence and resources.”

Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with Gender Links recently revealed that at least 68 percent of women in Zimbabwe have suffered from gender-based violence perpetrated by men.


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