The Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) recently concluded a study and produced the first report coming out of Zimbabwe focussing on politically motivated rape in the country. Since this was a clinical rather than an epidemiological study, there was no attempt to determine either the prevalence of political rape or to establish how representative the sample was. The aim of the study was to provide a valid and reliable description and assessment of alleged cases of politically motivated rape.
The study concluded that politically motivated rape has been occurring in Zimbabwe over the last ten years with serious social, medical and psychological impact on the survivors of these attacks. Politically motivated sexual violence against women in Zimbabwe has taken many forms. These include extreme violence, gang rape and insertion of objects (bottles and sticks) into the women's genitalia.
The sample of 27 women in the study came from members of a voluntary network (Doors of Hope Development Trust) set up to provide support for female victims of politically motivated rape. The reported rapes occurred in 2001, 2002, 2003 , and 2008 . Hence, most rapes [89%] occurred in 2008, but, of course, there is no suggestion that rape was actually more common in 2008 than in any other year.
The rape was just as likely to have taken place at or near the victim's home as at a base. Most were beaten prior to rape, some quite severely. A distressingly high number of the rapes took place in public, at or near the victim's home, and witnessed by the victim's family and children.
Over three-quarters were victims of multiple rape, with an average of three rapists per incident. Fourteen women reported 3 or more perpetrators to their rape.
Most did not report the rape to the authorities at all. Only 4 reported the rape.
The findings on physical examination, objective psychological assessment, and subjective complaints overlapped and supported each other. Hence, it was concluded that 25 could be described as showing a clinical picture that was either highly consistent or consistent with rape.
Most of the women did not receive appropriate care for the trauma that they had experienced. A high proportion of study participants displayed symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some presented symptoms suggesting psychotic depression.
Women in the study exhibited high levels of sleeplessness, nightmares, flashbacks, and hopelessness. A third of the women reported these symptoms, which are commonly associated with experiences of trauma. Traumatic memories have continued for extended periods of time.
Rape has far reaching consequences for women and their families, and for society as a whole; i.e. the danger of HIV/AIDS infection, children born as a result of the rape, and the physical injuries as well as the psychological trauma suffered by them and their families, particularly those that witnessed the attacks. Although the women in the sample talked about the need for justice, their main call is for immediate medical, social, and psychological support.
· It is important for Zimbabwe to set up a multi-sectoral investigation into politically motivated rape in Zimbabwe, led by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, together with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Community Development, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs. This should be undertaken on a large scale countrywide;
· There should be no impunity for perpetrators of violence. Cases of rape should be investigated and prosecuted in keeping with the law;
· The Zimbabwean government has to ensure that national sexual violence laws are enforced and the culture of impunity is done away with in keeping with local, regional and international instruments. Zimbabwe is party to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, in which it made commitments to "ensure that perpetrators of gender based violence, including domestic violence, rape, femicide, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation and all other forms of gender-based violence are tried by a court of competent jurisdiction." Zimbabwe's Parliament ratified the Protocol in October 2009.