By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, September 20, 2016 – A women’s rights lobby group has made sensational claims some women recently caught up in continuing anti-government protests in Zimbabwe were either being raped or forced to engage in sexual acts with fellow protesters by alleged Zanu PF supporters.
Since protests began few months ago, hundreds have been arrested with many claiming torture in the hands of both ruling party supporters and the state.
Attempts to stage more demonstrations this past weekend were violently resisted by anti-riot police with gut-wrenching images of lacerated buttocks of some victims circulating on social media.
The protests were organised by opposition parties under the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA), a loose grouping of up to 18 parties demanding the levelling of the electoral playing field.
Following the weekend demonstrations, said Justice for Women spokesperson, Coezette Chirinda at a press briefing in Harare on Tuesday, some of the women protesters were raped before they were dumped at the police Law and Order division at Harare Central Police station.
“Women are being exposed to physical and psychological abuse,” Chirinda said.
“They are being assaulted and raped. The state is at the centre of these violations and in fact the abuse of these women is state sponsored and must stop forthwith.”
Chirinda said others were stripped naked and brutally assaulted before being detained, a move she said was a serious violation of their rights.
“Mandowa Manezhu was arrested and jailed soon after the first NERA demonstration, leaving behind a three year old baby. An even heinous event saw a woman in her late 60s being abducted, tortured and forced to have sexual intercourse with a man young enough to be her grandchild.”
She however did not disclose more details to try and protect the victims.
Chirinda insisted police had a constitutional responsibility to protect citizens instead of visiting all manner of abuses on them.
She was speaking as some victims had appeared at the Mbare magistrates court Monday with wounds that exposed police brutality.
The women were reportedly granted bail in absentia after they failed to turn up due to the injuries sustained during the ordeals.
Chirinda was adamant the women’s group would march naked in the streets of Harare if the police failed to arrest the perpetrators of the crimes within a week.
She said a petition was currently circulating among various women’s organisations and individuals for signatures to demand action.
“We will not sit and watch the normalisation of state violence on women going unabated. The government must stop this violence against women forthwith and must ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book within the next seven days,” she said.