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Girls & Women

Women in Zimbabwe Are Wearing All Black to Protest Being Raped by the Military


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Zimbabwe is in the middle of a violent crackdown after anti-government protesters took the street earlier this month. Since then, reports of the military using sexual violence as a form of punishment against women and girls have emerged — and now women are speaking up. You can take action here to call on world leaders to prevent sexual violence.

Editor’s note: This story contains language and details of sexual violence.

Dressed in all black, women in Zimbabwe took to the streets in protest against sexual violence and assault perpetrated by the military on Wednesday.

The protesters, part of the “Black Wednesday” campaign, called on the government to hold the military accountable for raping and assaulting several girls and women over the past two weeks, the Guardian reports.

Zimbabwe is in the midst of a violent crackdown after the government’s sudden hike in fuel prices earlier this month caused a three-day strike and demonstrations. The demonstrations turned violent, leaving 12 people dead and dozens more injured.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Redouble Their Efforts By Amending Laws to Prevent Sexual Violence

Since then, police have received reports of military personnel robbing, murdering, and raping people. In some cases, the military has forcefully entered people’s homes to “punish” them for participating in anti-government protests.

“Soldiers stormed my home at midnight on the second day of the protests, their faces hidden behind balaclavas, and started beating me,” a 21-year-old survivor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation

“They were accusing me of participating in the protests, saying I was one of the hooligans that burnt tires on the streets. After that, they raped me,” she said.

She, like many others alleging rape by the military, has not reported the attack to the police out of fear.

While many incidences of rapes have been reported in the media and to NGOs, human rights lawyers say most survivors are afraid to seek treatment or file official police reports for fear of further retaliation and humiliation.

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Read More: Nobel-Winning Yazidi Survivor Demands Justice for Women Raped in Vietnam War

The government has urged survivors to file official reports.

"All women, who were allegedly raped, are encouraged to come forward and report the cases to the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit," Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said.

"The unit is led by a female commissioner, hence, all affected women will be treated with empathy, compassion, respect and due care. Their safety will be guaranteed," she added.

However, mistrust of the police, who have been involved in the violent government crackdown, remains high, the BBC reports.

Wednesday’s protest — organized by the Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), a women’s empowerment organization, and nonprofit Justice for Women Zimbabwe — encouraged men to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence. It also called on the government to act on the ongoing situation.

“We demand that the regime owns up to their actions,” WALPE said in a statement.

“We need the voices of men also to support women, so that women may restore their confidence in men...We are calling on all women who have been abused by uniformed forces to report to independent bodies,” the organization said.

People have also shared messages of solidarity with the movement on social media.


If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org. You can find international resources here.