Three opposition party (Movement for Democratic Change) youth leaders Cecillia Chimbiri, Joanah Mamombe, and Netsai Marova were abducted, beaten and sexually assaulted by Zimbabwean state agents. They were arrested at a roadblock guarded by police and soldiers on Wednesday at a protest in Harare against the government’s failure to provide for the poor during the country’s Covid-19 lockdown. On Friday a local man found them badly injured and traumatised on a roadside 60 miles away from Harare. During the three days of horror, the women were taken to a remote, wooded area where they were beaten, stripped naked, sexually assaulted with firearms, and forced to drink each other’s urine. Here the Zimbabwean government used sexual violence as a weapon of political oppression.
There is a connection between political torture and sexual crime (during the torture). The State can use rape and sexual assault as a weapon of oppression and punishment in political combat. The above story shows an intersection between, on the one hand, political repression against the opposition party and, on the other hand, persisting gender inequality and gender-based violence. Owing to the intimate nature of sexual violence, affected survivors feel isolated from their political party and engulfed by shame. Sexual assault is a type of crime that encroaches on a person’s intimacy. This type of sexual assault should not be viewed as a private issue separate from organized torture. This incident of sexual assault should be viewed as part of state violence.
The 3 women face prison term or a fine after being accused by government of making false statements to police “alleging that they had been unlawfully detained or kidnapped by some unknown people who claimed to be police officers”.
Zimbabwe has been under dictatorship since the early 2000s. In 2017 a military coup ended ex President Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical rule. Currently inflation is running above 700 percent. 78 percent of Zimbabwe’s children are living in consumption poverty (extremely poor and poor). President Emmerson Mnangagwa backed by Chiwenga promised people change and democracy. Those promises were broken.
Violence persists. Inequality persists.
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If you are interested in this article, you might want to read Child labour in Zimbabwe