|July 24, 2010
Silence on rights abuses condemned
The region and international human rights advocates have come under fire for ignoring the sexual rights abuses that occurred in Zimbabwe during the 2008 orgy of rape, violence and intimidation of opposition supporters.
On the sidelines of the 18th International Aids conference in Vienna, human rights watchdog, Aids-Free World and activists from South Africa, Botswana and other countries vowed to continue to apply pressure on regional and international bodies such as Sadc, the African Union and the UN Security Council to take action against the perpetrators of political violence carried out against opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters.
Aids-Free Worlds' report, entitled 'Electing to Rape: Sexual Terror in Mugabe's Zimbabwe' presents alleged evidence of the rape campaign waged by the ruling Zanu PF party during the 2008 election period. Over the course of six field visits, the group's lawyers interviewed rape survivors and witnesses, resulting in 70 sworn affidavits from victims describing brutal beatings, abduction, gang rape and torture. According to the report, every one of those 70 women was either a member of MDC, or closely related to a member of the then opposition party. Amid these statistics was also Tabitha Khumalo, MP for Bulawayo East. "Rape is a silent driver of HIV and Aids and is now being used as a political weapon so that as women we are denied the right to stand up and demand what is rightfully ours," she said. Khumalo said the act of rape leads to stigmatisation of the victims by the police, health institutions as well as the victims' children and partners.
Current statistics show that HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe stands at 13,7% with unprotected heterosexual sex being one of the drivers of the pandemic. The MP said she was proud to know that the international community gathered in Vienna was taking the issue of Zimbabwe women seriously. "Please help the Zimbabwean women," she pleaded. "We have done everything in our power and we have failed."
The Conference in Vienna was taking place under the theme, 'Rights Here. Right Now' and is calling for a human rights-based approach to responding to HIV and Aids.