” if you walk around displaying your thighs and inviting men to drool over you, then you want to complain when you have been raped? That is unfortunate because it will be your fault”
These incidences are indicative of the mentality held by the average Zimbabwean conservative about rape/sexual assault. There are many other examples of Zimbabwean politicians showing a complete disregard for the rape culture and it has become a cancer. A toxic epidemic taken away from the public eye and dealt with separately from politics, as if one’s opinion will not later affect the people he implements policy for.Victim blaming and one sided conversation about rape/sexual assault are societal poisons that are perpetuated by the very people that ought to protect us.
The conversation ought to be considered in light of a historical context. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and Physicians for Human Rights have documented systematic rape and sexual torture of women during Zimbabwe’s political violence since the early 2000s. The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association estimated that at least 1,000 women were held in militia camps in 2002. Between these statistics, the statements of Joyce Mujuru and many other politicians, it became clear you cannot divorce politics from rape in Zimbabwe.In 2008 Alice Kasirori was gang raped by four men during the run off in the presidential elections as a result of her husband’s political activism. When telling her story, Alice mostly only addressed how afraid she was her husband would leave her. The story’s focus was completely stripped from the survivor and turned into an account of men’s perceptions of women after they had been violated.The Zimbabwean government has dismissed any reports of rape
being used as a political weapon, and this is where the problem begins.
The misogyny runs so deep it has become institutional. For a country with one of the worst economies in history, there seems to be a lot of time dedicated to moral panics. This is defined as media reports and rumors that highlight a threat to society’s ‘agreed on social behavior ‘. It consists of responses by institutions and individuals labeling women’s decisions as a social and political problem that needs to be rectified to restore the moral social order.It is truly an epidemic. The unnecessarily harsh scrutiny of romantic lives of female political candidates, the tasteless jokes and insinuations that respected professionals cannot be so if they are sexually active is an ongoing conversation in Zimbabwean politics. Other than land redistribution, no other conversation holds more longevity. And yet rape culture is completely removed from the public eye.Women’s sex lives are only politicized to allege incompetence but never to confront realities of gender based violence.
Even in the spaces safest for women, you will be warned against dressing in an “attention seeking” way. Rape culture has now transcended into an ugly side of feminism that continues to feed into the patriarchy and persecute women for bringing attacks upon themselves. A non-intersectional version of feminism that ostracizes the women who does not fit into a conventional image of modern feminism.Surely at some point we can agree not only is there no space for every woman to be an attorney CEO but acknowledge the very simple fact that not every woman wants to be. A restrictive interpretation of feminism perpetuates the order just as much as patriarchy. You cannot possibly believe women ought to have free agency only to the extent they still fit into one person’s idea of ‘virtue’. Today’s urban sexual politics were strongly cultivated within elitist politics and practices of ‘respectability’ aimed at regulating black female thoughts, bodies and actions (Stevenson, 2012). Feminism does not strictly prescribe a perfect way of living. Because it is simply not possible. Individuality is important and acknowledging that feminism means different things to different women and we all practice our empowerment in different ways.
There is no place for victim blaming, and slut shaming in an ideal society that understands the versatility of women empowerment.
Carby,H. (1992). Policingthe black woman‘s bodyin an urban context.Critical Inquiry18,738-755.
S Stevenson. The Politics of “Being Too Fast”: Policing Urban Black Adolescent Female Bodies, Sexual Agency, Desire, and Academic Resilience (2012)