AD87: Reaching for equality: Zimbabweans endorse gender equity in politics but say citizens treated unequally before the law

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Graph: Unequal treatment under the law in Zimbabwe
Stephen Ndoma and Richman Kokera

Equality is a principle enshrined in Zimbabwe’s Constitution and legal system, which seek to guarantee both gender equity and equal treatment for all – regardless of class, religion, or race – before the law. According to Section 3(1) of the Constitution, “recognition of the equality of all human beings” is one of the country’s founding principles.

More specifically, Section 17(1) of the Constitution requires the state to promote gender balance and the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society. In pursuit of these objectives, the country has crafted a National Gender Policy; established a Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development; enacted a variety of laws to ensure women’s rights (e.g. inheritance rights, protection from domestic violence); and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Platform of Action, and the Southern African Development Community’s Declaration on Gender and Development.

Women have served as Zimbabwe’s vice president, deputy prime minister, president of the Senate, deputy speaker of the House of Assembly, and judge president of the High Court. However, in the current administration, only three of 26 Cabinet ministers, three of 13 ministers of state, and five of 24 deputy ministers are women, and only 11.5% of the Cabinet is female – far below women’s 52% share of the population (Zaba & Ndebele, 2013).

Reality remains out of sync with Zimbabwe’s law as well as with the aspirations of its citizens: Findings from the latest Afrobarometer survey show that more than two-thirds of Zimbabweans support gender equality in politics, and most of them feel “very strongly” about this issue.

When it comes to ensuring all citizens’ right to equality before the law, a majority of Zimbabweans say this isn’t a reality yet, either. While perceptions of unequal treatment have been decreasing since 2009, Zimbabweans are still far more likely to expect impunity for public officials than for ordinary citizens who commit crimes.