SEVERAL women’s rights lobby groups yesterday pleaded with Parliament to allow the Zimbabwe Gender Commission to enjoy unfettered independence and have a clear-cut reporting mechanism to avoid interference by the Executive.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The groups made their submissions when they appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Women, Gender and Community Development and the Thematic Committee on Gender chaired by Harare Metropolitan senator James Makore during a public hearing on the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill.
Women in Politics Support Unit (Wipsu) and Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe representative Tsitsi Mhlanga said the independence of the commission should not be jeopardised as the Bill seemed to give overarching powers to the minister in terms of appointment of the commission staff.
“It is also our recommendations that there be clear reporting mechanisms of the commission to the public and Parliament and also timelines for those reports,” Mhlanga said.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights representative Maureen Shonge said it was imperative that the Gender Commission should take cognisance of international standards like the Paris principles, which included independence as guaranteed in the constitution, autonomy from government and pluralism in appointment of commissioners to include marginalised groups like people living with disabilities.
“The commission must have adequate powers of investigating cases of abuse and adequate resources. We also feel there might be need to define the differences between gender and sex and other terms that are not clear. In terms of Section 320 the commission should serve a five-year term but there is a purport to reappoint the commission for more than one term, and it is something to re-interrogate,” Shonge said.
Veritas representative Josephine Chiname said there were no clear provisions in the Bill for investigations.
“The Bill should clearly state the timelines of when the minister should lay the report before Parliament after investigations,” Chiname said.
Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association’s Geraldine Nyaku said the commission might face challenges in conducting its investigative role as it had no powers to issue summons.
Tendai Mutandwa from the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association said there was need to ensure that funds donated did not compromise operations of the commission.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Biata Beatrice Nyamupinga said the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill was gazetted in July and sought to establish a nine-member commission whose main duties were to mainstream gender equality in public and private institutions, investigate gender violations, conduct research on gender and social justice issues and recommend changes to discriminatory laws.