Why are you raping us and raping kids? If you cannot propose, come to us women, we will connect you. Mr Speaker Sir, real men do not rape women. Mathew 7: verse 7 says: 'Ask and you shall be given. Kumbira muchapiwa. Celani lizaphiwa," Bulawayo East legislator, Thabitha Khu-malo, told Parliament recently while debating a motion to ratify the Southern African Develo-pment Community (SADC) protocol on Gender and Development.

Although there are no official statistics on incidences of violence against women, human rights groups say over 2 000 women were raped betw-een May and July last year in crimes linked to the June 27 presidential run-off.

And as the world celebrates the International Human Rights Day tomorrow, a day that also marks the end of 16 days of activism against gender violence, local women are also grappling with other rights abuses, apart from rape, that are a product of the political strife experienced in Zimbabwe over the last decade.
The worst form of violence that has emerged against women in recent years has been torture.

Human rights experts say the reported cases of torture have increased as a result of the growing polarity betw-een ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which only subsided with the formation of the inclusive government in February.
According to a report by the Zimbabwe Torture Victims Project titled Women On The Run, thousands of local women have been subjected to torture throughout the country's economic, political and humanitarian crisis.

The report said beatings, sensory over-stimulation, burnings, falanga (beatings of the soles of the feet) and electronic shock were some of the forms of torture reported by women.

"The report found out that women who reported rape were significantly more likely to report severe torture, particularly beatings. The women who were raped were significantly more likely to be assessed as suffering psychological problems following trauma," the report said.
It added that torture was only part of the injustices suffered by females as there are other rights abuses being suffered by the women folk.

According to the United Nations Populations Fund, globally, women are subjected to domestic violence, child marriage, incest, female genital mutilation, trafficking, femicide, sexual harassment, 'honour' killings, forced sterilisation, pornography and bride kidnapping.
Although Zimbabwe has enacted a number of laws to deal with the abuse of women, violations persist as the pieces of legislation in question have largely not been implemented, according to a parliamentary contribution on the SADC gender motion by MDC-T Masvingo urban Member of Parliament, Tongai Matutu, who is also a practicing lawyer.

Giving an example of the late permanent secretary in the Ministry of Constitutio-nal and Parliamentary Affairs, Margaret Chiduku, who lost her life while giving birth, Matutu said there should also be legislation to do with sexual reproductive health to ensure that women deliver freely and safely by guarding against negligence by those in the medical profession.

However, judging by precedence, the new laws have to be implemented so that they do not suffer the same fate endured by other progressive legislation that Parliament has passed since the country's independence in 1980.

Some of the progressive laws already on stream include the Equal Pay Regulations (1980), providing for equal pay for work of equal value; the Legal Age of Majority Act (1982), which conferred majority status on women; the Public Service Pensions Amendment Act (1985) that provides for female workers in the public service to contribute to their pension at the same rate as their male contributors; the Matri-monial

Causes Act (1987) providing for equitable distribution of assets upon divorce as well as the Maintenance Amendment Act (1989) which provides for the payment of maintenance. Others are the Administration of Estates Amendment Act (1997), which protects the inheritance rights of surviving spouses and children; the Labour Act (2000), which prohibits discriminating against women at the workplace; the Sexual Offences Act (2001), which criminalises marital rape and willful transmission of HIV and Aids; and the Domestic Violence Act (2007) that protects and gives relief to victims of domestic violence.

According to The Women's Trust, as the country works on a new constitution more needs to be done in that process to safeguard women's rights and this include the creation of an Independent Gender Commission mandated to promote women's rights and gender equality in the country. It added that there should be electoral reforms such as establishing an electoral system based on proportional representation as opposed to the present constituency based electoral system.

"For women out there these are some of the issues to consider when drafting the constitution. Affirmative action should be put in place to avoid all forms of gender imbalances, the syllabus should be rid of all gender stereotypes; there must be institutional recognition of women as care givers by the State," the Women's Trust said in a recent statement.