Long Essays

This is a collection of Reasearch Papers done by Upgraders.

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Law reform: Whose responsibility? Law reform: Whose responsibility?

This article looks at the law reform process and critically examines the efforts made so far towards marriage law reform (substance and process) in Zimbabwe with special focus on the efforts made by the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), a non-governmental organization whose aim is to improve the status of women in Zimbabwe. Insight into the problems necessitating law reform is gained and obstacles that are responsible for the reluctance to reform the marriage laws unearthed. An effort has been made to understand the critical stages in effecting law reform in the Zimbabwean situation and to identify the actors involved, especially in reforming laws that are deemed to be discriminatory against women. Different researchers and writers from as early as 1980 have recommended that family laws, particularly marriage laws, be reformed in order for the status of women to be improved and for gender equality to be achieved. Interest in this topic has arisen from witnessing daily the problems that women face as a result of the current marriage laws. Furthermore, because the marriage law reform process has not yet been documented by ZWLA, important experiences might be lost if they are not recorded. ZWLA’s experiences form the basis of the paper and it is hoped that the lessons learned from these experiences will assist in future endeavours to reform other problematic laws. The article shows that law reform is a long process which should involve all concerned actors, given that the net effect is to change people’s way of life.

By Linda Kalenga

Judicial training on the use of human rights to promote gender equality An overview of the jurisprudence of the equality programme in Kenya Judicial training on the use of human rights to promote gender equality An overview of the jurisprudence of the equality programme in Kenya

International human rights law is constantly being refined and developed but in many countries, traditional legal training ignores the international dimension and lawyers and judges may know little about these comprehensive human rights law statements and provisions. This essay evaluates the Kenyan experience of an International Women Judges Foundation project which set out to close the gap between rhetoric and reality by implementing a unique judicial education programme entitled ‘Towards a jurisprudence of equality: women judges and human rights law’. The project equips judges with the knowledge and skills needed to resolve cases arising in their national courts which involve discrimination and/or violence against women, in accordance with the principles enshrined in international and regional human rights legislation. The author outlines the project’s activities in Kenya and concludes that the training programme has had a positive impact on the implementation of regional and international human rights law. She points out that a growing number of judicial officers are now willing to explore the protection offered by international instruments to safeguard the human rights of women and concludes that the training programme needs to be expanded to all judicial officers.

By Praxedes Tororey

 

Judicial training on the use of human rights to promote gender equality: An overview of the jurisprudence of the equality programme in Kenya
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International ‘drive’ for reforms on water International ‘drive’ for reforms on water

Water reforms have been on the international agenda for decades and this essay assesses the impact of these reforms at a national and local level by focusing on women in peri­urban areas in Zambia. While the Zambian constitution specifically includes political and civil rights, it only implies the economic, social and cultural rights that would obligate the government to deliver social services, including water. The right to water is a gendered issue as women have traditionally been responsible for supplying water for the household but the author points out that the local legislation dealing with water rights and access does not take this into account. Commercialization of water is said to maximize profits for commercial utilities and increase efficiency in water use, thus reducing negative environmental impacts and improving water conservation. However, in a situation where over 60 per cent of urban dwellers are poor, high pricing of water makes it inaccessible to many households. The author discusses the George Compound Water Project in Lusaka which has attempted to address these issues and goes on to suggest a human rights approach to water reforms in Zambia that incorporates the spirit of the relevant international human rights instruments.

By Cosmas Lukupulo

Handling of survivors of rape as a crime against humanity, the gender perspective in the Rwandan genocide tribunal  Some lessons from the Muhimana case Handling of survivors of rape as a crime against humanity, the gender perspective in the Rwandan genocide tribunal Some lessons from the Muhimana case

This essay finds its departure in the preparatory work in the Muhimana case, focusing on the interaction with respective witnesses who subsequently testified in the case. The accused, Muhimana committed exclusive and disproportionate crimes against women and girls in Kibuye during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The author also derives some of her observations from her experience as a regional magistrate in Zimbabwe and her work at a non­governmental organization, the Musasa Project. She identifies some inherent problems associated with being a victim of rape, for example, being ostracized and stigmatized and social and economic insecurity. She also identifies the inadequacies and anomalies within the legal system in relation to these crimes and the sometimes insensitive treatment of the victims. The essay concludes by exploring gender sensitive ways to close the gap between rhetoric and practice in interviewing witnesses and investigating rape as a crime against humanity and a crime of war. The author suggests ways to reinforce any identified strengths in the system and to avoid re­-traumatizing victims as they interact with the international justice system.

By Renifa Madenga

Breaking the silence on menstruation in Zimbabwe: Where does the female prisoner stand? Breaking the silence on menstruation in Zimbabwe: Where does the female prisoner stand?

Menstruation is a normal female function. It occurs every 21 to 28 days for three to five days. Although women are homogeneous in the sense that they all experience menstruation between the ages of about eleven and 50 years, it affects individual women differently. There are variations in both the duration and density of the flow, among others. And so while one woman menstruates for two days, it can last for as long as five days in another woman. Even where two women menstruate for the same number of days, one woman’s flow may be heavier.

By Jill Makarati

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