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Zimbabwe: women protest sexual violence by security forces

SPEAKING OUT: Women have worn black as part of their display of solidarity with rape victims

WOMEN IN Zimbabwe have launched a protest in response to reports of violent sexual acts committed by soldiers.

The protesters wore black clothes as part of the Black Wednesday day of action yesterday (January 30).

The women called on the Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and authorities to act to address the violence against women.

Using social media to amplify their voices, campaigners used hashtags such as #OurBodiesNotWarZones, #BlackWednesday and #SheSpeaksOut. Men have also been participating in the action.

Reports of sexual violence have been widespread, in one article the BBC said that it spoke to six women who said they had been raped by soldiers, and police officials shared with The Guardian documents relating to over a dozen investigations that point to acts of murder, rape and armed robbery committed by security forces, but the government has sought to downplay the extent of the attacks.

Zimbabwe’s information minister Monica Mutsvangwa has said that only one attack has been officially reported, according to The Herald, a state-run newspaper.

"All women, who were allegedly raped, are encouraged to come forward and report the cases to the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit, which can be found at every police station around the country,” The Herald reported Mutsvangwa said.

Earlier this week, lawyers in the country took to the streets to demand a return to the rule of law in the aftermath of the arrest of hundreds of anti-government protesters including children.

Amnesty International has called on Zimbabwe’s security forces to be held accountable for “merciless” human rights violations.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for Southern Africa, said: “The onslaught by the security forces in Zimbabwe has seen people killed, arbitrarily arrested, abducted, reportedly raped and jailed on suspicion of taking part in the protests. Children as young as 11 years old have been detained on frivolous charges.”

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