By Mutsa Makuvaza
FIREBRAND opposition LEAD president Linda Masarira has voiced against the harassment of MDC-A legislator Joana Mamombe and called on Parliament to institute investigations into complaints by Mamombe that she has been repeatedly harassed by Zanu-PF MPs right inside the august House.
There was brouhaha yesterday in Parliament when Zanu-PF Buhera South legislator Joseph Chinotimba, Norton MP Temba Mliswa (INDEPENDENT) and MDC Alliance’s Harare East legislator Tendai Biti exchanged harsh words after Mamombe (Harare West) had spoken against gender-based violence.
Chinotimba stirred up controversy when he asked why Parliament had allowed a “mad person” to speak, in reference to Mamombe’s medical records before the courts, leading to Tendai Biti charging that the Deputy Speaker must “expel that bearded man from this House for abusing this young lady”.
Speaking this Thursday the occasion of the 16 Days of Activism on Gender Based Violence, Masarira told the Zimbabwe Voice that it was disturbing when female legislators faced harassment right inside the Parliament building.
“I am disturbed by the sexual harrasmment openly done in parliament against women Member of Parliament since time immemorial by male MPs,” said Masarira.
“As a political organization that strongly believes in equality and elimination of any form of violence against women, we stand in solidarity with Hon. Mamombe in demanding a privileges committee to be set up for matters of sexual harassment happening in Parliament.
“I am calling to order Hon. Chinotimba and all other male MPs who thrive on sexual harassment and offensive statements to reform and lead by example.
“Their conduct is abuse to women and we demand an apology to all women in Zimbabwe from all the MPs in the 9th Parliament who have verbally assaulted any female MP in the August House.
“Parliament must protect women and ensure that the August House is a safe space for women. Women must feel secure in the August House, so as to inspire younger women to aspire to be legislators.
“With the continued attacks on women, body shaming and name calling, women will just shy away from active politics which is a tragedy to women participation in governance issues,” said Masarira.
Masarira added that her political party, Labour Economists and Afrikan Democrats (LEAD), called for an end to all forms of harrasmment against every woman regardless of her race, creed or standing in society.
“Today is the second day of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence. The whole world goes into activism mode against gender based violence which commences on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day every year.
“It was started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Labour Economists and Afrikan Democrats (LEAD) calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.”
She said legislators should be promoting laws and making sure that stiffer penalties on gender-based violence (GBV)) are in place despite of class society or political affiliation.
“It is mockery to the electorate in Zimbabwe to have some so called Hon. Members being perpetrators of GBV instead of being advocates against GBV.
“Violence against women represents one of the most critical security challenges and is a major factor contributing to poverty,” said Masarira.
She added that reducing violence against women was key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in particular goals number 1, 3, 5, 10 and 16.
Zimbabwe is signatory to the international human rights frameworks for women’s rights. Zimbabwe ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1991 which is considered as the women’s bill of rights.
Under this Convention, states have the obligation to review their legal systems in order to end discrimination and to establish institutions that protect women. As part of the obligations, CEDAW allows for the monitoring of compliance and receives complaints from the signatory states.
“Today, I demand that Parliament of Zimbabwe should make sure that Parliament is a safe space for women and that any form.of discrimination against women MPs is eliminated.
“This year I will be doing advocacy on GBV on a daily basis on real time issues of GBV happening in Zimbabwe. Wathinta umfazi wathinta imboko. Let us unite against Gender Based Violence and encourage all victims of GBV to speakout and seek justice.
“#TogetherWeCan eliminate violence in our communities, workplace and in our homes,” Masarira said. – Zimbabwe Voice ■