Zimbabwe: women human rights defenders face higher risk of sexual or gender-based violence – ICJ report

Women human rights defenders are at a heightened risk of sexual or gender-based violence as a result of the nature of their work in defence of human rights, the ICJ  said in a new report published today.

The 28-page report Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Zimbabwe: Women Human Rights Defenders’ Experiences and Legal Challenges concluded that gaps within the Zimbabwean legal framework on sexual offences hinder women human rights defenders from seeking and receiving redress for sexual or gender-based violence suffered in the course of or due to the nature of their work.

The report explores the main legal gaps identified and makes recommendations to a number of actors, including the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Judicial Service Commission and Parliament of Zimbabwe.

“The police, the Judicial Service Commission, and ultimately the Parliament must improve their approach to SGBV for the benefit of all women, including women human rights defenders,” said Blessing Gorejena, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser.

In 2019, the ICJ commissioned a study of the experiences of women who are  human rights defenders in Zimbabwe based on the following research questions:

  1. Does the work of WHRDs increase their risk of being subjected to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)?
  2. What are the key legal challenges that WHRDs encounter when seeking redress for SGBV perpetrated against them due to or as a result of their work?

This report builds on the discussions held at a regional colloquium organized by the ICJ in 2015 in Eswatini. Those discussions were presented in a reflection paper entitled Sexual and Gender-based Violence, Fair Trial Rights and the Rights of Victims: Challenges in Using Law and Justice Systems Faced by Women Human Rights Defenders.


Blessing Gorejena, Senior Legal Adviser and Team Leader of ICJ Zimbabwe Project, e: blessing.gorejena(a)icj.org

Elizabeth Mangenje, Legal Adviser, e: elizabeth.mangenje(a)icj.org


Zimbabwe-SGBV-WHRD-Publications-Reports-Thematic reports-2021-ENG

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