ZIMBABWE: Women Seeking Justice Face Archaic Rules and Discrimination

Deputy Minister for Women’s Affairs Fungayi Jessie Majome says legal protection for abused women remains a pie in sky – Published on IPS, by Nyarai Mudimu, August 3, 2011.

The four armed robbers who gang raped her may be serving time for their crimes, but six years later justice has turned out to be a myth for Mildred Mapingure. “No post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV was administered to me and there was no ‘morning-after pill’ to prevent pregnancy. I was tossed from office to office, meanwhile I was silently praying I was not pregnant,” Mapingure told IPS from her rural home in Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe. It is illegal to terminate a pregnancy in Zimbabwe unless the ‘pregnancy endangers the life of the mother and/or is a result of unlawful penetration (rape)’, according to the Termination of Pregnancy Act. And abortion is only allowed in the first trimester.  

When Mapingure realised the inevitable had happened two months after being raped, prosecutors rushed the application for a termination of pregnancy order through the Chinhoyi regional magistrate’s court in Mashonaland West. But long court delays resulted in the order being granted when she was eight months pregnant. Mapingure had no option but to give birth.

Four years later, and with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), she has sued government for 52,000 dollars for wrongful birth and child maintenance. “Until now, I am still waiting to hear the outcome of my case. And as my boy is growing up, his needs are also increasing. I am unemployed and not married but am still expected to provide for him. I haven’t paid this term’s school fees,” said Mapingure. She declined to discuss her feelings for her son at length, insisting she loved him despite the circumstances surrounding his conception.

But Mapingure’s case is not the only one of failed justice in this southern African country … //

… Research conducted by Women and Law Southern Africa (WLSA), an organisation dealing with human rights, showed that women are frustrated by financial, geographical, cultural and social factors in using the higher echelons of the courts. “Problems emanate from the structure and nature of (the court) system in its form. Maintenance matters, domestic violence and administration and distribution of deceased estates remain the major points where women seek justice,” said WLSA national coordinator Slyvia Chirawu. (full text).

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