Disability Observer 2020 issue 8

“Unlocking” the rights contained in section 83 of the Constitution

By Isaacs MwaleWhen the Constitution of Zimbabwe came into force in 2013, it introduced a wide range of rights for persons with disabilities and for the first time in the history of the country citizens with disabilities were officially recognized and their social, economic, language and political rights were guaranteed in this Constitution.Section 6 of the Constitution saw the recognition of Sign language as one of the official languages of the country whilst section 22 titled “Persons with disabilities” saw the introduction of a provision that prohibits the state and all institutions and agencies of government from infringing the right to dignity and respect of persons with disabilities. Section 56 of the Constitution also mentions disability as one of the factors a person may not be discriminated against.

Mostly significantly and central to the title of this piece is section 83, located in chapter 4 of the Constitution in the Declaration of Rights.Section 83 of the Constitution states that:“The State must take appropriate measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to ensure that persons with disabilities realise their full mental and physical potential, including measures— (a) to enable them to become self- reliant; (b) to enable them to live with their families and participate in social, creative or recreational activities; (c) to protect them from all forms of exploitation and abuse; (d) to give them access to medical, psychological and functional treatment; (e) to provide special facilities for their education; and (f) to provide State-funded education and training where they need it”.This section thus directly places an obligation for the state to make sure that persons with disabilities are provided with a conducive environment for them to thrive as much and if possible more than their none-disabled counterparts.

It has now been over 7 years since this Constitution was born and with it section 83. But in that 7 year period, the country is still without a National Disability Policy, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) has not yet been domesticated and the Disabled Persons act has not yet been aligned to the Constitution. Why has this taken so long? In order for Section 83 to be effective and practical, the just above mentioned processes must take place.

Water crisis increases vulnerabilities of children

By Tinotenda Chikunya

Chitungwiza disability community has appealed to Government to avail more water sources as the water crisis has increased the vulnerabilities of children with disabilities in the area.

Speaking during a survey carried out by Deaf Zimbabwe Trust, Chitungwiza resident Esau Mashonga said lack of accessible water sources had resulted in children with disabilities being exposed to various social ills.

“We do not get water on home taps and the borehole is always crowded , children spend hours waiting for water and some paedophiles are taking advantage of the situation as they are sexually and emotionally abusing the children”.

He added that some of the children were being exposed to child labour as parents were sending children to fetch water for neighbours for a fee.

“Due to these harsh economic times, parents are now making children engage in money making errands as a way to make ends meet but the children have to wake up very early which is very unsafe for them”

‘’ This lockdown has made things worse as children are spending almost the whole day at boreholes and now there is no respect for elders as they hear all sorts of verbal abuses”

A young resident with a physical disability , Monica Chirwa stated that some water committee members would try to take advantage of girls with disabilities at the water points.

“Sometimes when I am alone at home I have to go and fetch water by myself and the men at the borehole will make advances towards me in exchange with letting me fetch the water first since there will be a long queue”.

She added that men saw girls with disabilities as an easy target as most of them lacked in- formation on sexual and reproductive health
therefore they would be abused and the men would get away with it.

Another resident Rukudzo Chibanda cited there was need for government to intervene as the water crisis continued to worsen.

“During the hot season ,water levels decrease and people spend the whole day in queues for water , government needs to give us water in home taps at least once a week to improve the situation as we currently cannot afford to have our own well ”

Chitungwiza require 45megalitres of water daily , Harare is only able to provide 30megalitres .

Empowering women through constitution literacy

By Tinotenda Chikunya

Women all over the world have had to experience all sorts of social ills based on their gender. In as much as many organisations and initiatives have been put in place for women to be empowered, they are still subjected to discrimination.

Women empowerment stems from ensuring that women fully enjoy their human rights. Women empowerment is the process of increasing access to choices and opportunities that enable women to reach their full potential in political, socio-cultural and economic empowerment. Women empowerment also means the elimination of unequal power relations between genders.

Knowledge is power and the key to empowering women is through educating them on their rights. The Constitution of Zimbabwe guarantees women the right to gender equality, Section 17 of the Constitution states that the state must promote the full participation of women in all spheres of society on the basis of equality with men. Section 80 outlines the rights of women with provisions on equal dignity of women with men in political, economic and social activities. It also states that women have the same rights as men regarding custody and guardianship of children. All customs, traditions and cultural practices that infringe the rights of women are void to the extent of infringement.  Section 78 outlines marriage rights stating that a person who has attained 18years has the rights to a family but no person may be compelled to enter a marriage against their will.

All these rights speak to and protect women from the violence and inequalities that they may face in different societies which include sexual and physical violence, unwanted and early marriages, economic vulnerabilities and marriage rights brought about by patriarchal practices.

Gender sensitisation and human rights education is vital in the empowerment of women through constitutional literacy. Abuse on women has been perpetuated due to their lack of knowledge on their rights and they are also told their rights do not matter.

When women know their rights, they have the capacity to speak up and fight against destructive cultural norms that fuel gender inequality in Zimbabwe. They have the power to challenge Gender Based Violence by being able to have the discernment to understand the difference between cultural practices and human rights violations.

Concertizing women on their rights also empowers women to take up leadership positions and increases their political participation. Even though the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides a quota of 60 seats for women for proportional representation in Parliament, political parties need to ensure that they provide enabling environments for gender parity.

Women often face discrimination and inequalities in the workplace. Sexual abuse by management, unfair working conditions and being underpaid due to their gender are some of the challenges in the workplace. These inequalities are not challenged or questioned due to lack of knowledge on their rights. Equal pay is a human right and discrimination on fair wages results in economic disparity and increases poverty levels for women.

When women know their rights, they are empowered to stand and demand their rights and the rights of their children. When women have full access to their rights they will be able to enjoy gender equality and equity in Zimbabwe.