Marange hell: Soldiers unleash fresh sexual abuse on women

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MUTARE – She lay helplessly in her house with her face bruised registering terror, crying uncontrollably after being raped several times recently by Zimbabwean soldiers manning the Marange diamond area.

This is the harrowing tale of Chipo (Not her real name) who is one of dozens of women accusing Zimbabwean soldiers who are battling fresh accusations in Marange of rape and sexual abuse.

Of late, there have been intensified deployments of the security forces in Marange area in a bid to stem out marauding artisanal miners who are reportedly illegally panning diamonds.

In an interview with the Zim Morning Post on the sidelines of the Centre For Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) launch of a research paper dubbed Guns, Power and Violence Against Women in the Extractives in Mutare recently, women from Marange said there have been subjected to renewed cases of rape and sexual abuse.

“They are preying on us because we are defenseless women and if we report these cases they are being swept under the carpet. They are demanding sex in turn for offering us some favors. This vicious cycle has continued in Marange unabated,” said a woman who attended the launch of the report who declined to be named fearing reprisals and stigmatization by friends and relatives.

“lf they see you without an ID they will demand to sleep with you for that. This is happening and some of us are victims. Some of the women sell their various wares in the diamond fields, so the soldiers will demand sex from the women to avoid being arrested,” the woman added.

Another victim said: “This is the reality. The soldiers are still harassing and raping us. If you deny them their demands they will beat you. Some move door to door claiming to be doing inspections. If they see that there is no husband they will then pounce on you.”

The Director at CNRG Farai Maguwu said it was very clear that the state security agents have failed to protect the communities.

“As you can see the women have spoken of their predicaments. In actual fact, instead of protecting the women in the diamond sector, they (security agents) have actually taking advantage of the vulnerable women,” he said.

“We have also seen private security companies victimizing women and according to our investigations these security companies are well connected to the ruling elites and they are not executing their duties, but are being aggressive on women.”

“What we are seeing in Marange is unheard of, as we are seeing soldiers forcing women to undress in front of them and indecently search them by touching their private parts looking for diamonds.”

“Soldiers must not be living with the civilians. The members of the community are being alleged of trespassing. These include women who are caught and tend up being abused,” Maguwu said.

The research paper was conducted by Women In Mining in partnership with CNRG from Zimbabwe, Justicia Ambiental (JA) from Mozambique and the Network Management for Justice and Development (NMJD) from Sierra Leone.

Simiso Mlevu who is CNRG Projects and Communication Manager said the research was done in 2018 and was undertaken in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Sierra Leone.

“The research paper explored women’s experiences of violence in the context of mining in Zimbabwe. Mining in Zimbabwe takes place in a highly unequal patriarchal and violent economic system of development based on the exploitation of people and natural resources,” Mlevu said.

“Through the militarization and securitization of the mining sector, women have been exposed to violence by the army, police and private security forces,” Mlevu added.

She said there was great need to break the silence around these forms of violence and abuses so that women in the diamond mining sector can obtain the redress and justice they define for themselves.

“This research paper therefore, lays the ground for work well underway across Zimbabwe to support womens’ organization and trauma relief ahead of expanded efforts to document and seek substantive redress for women who have suffered the range of violence intrinsic to an extractivist model of development,” said Mlevu.  

Women living in villages on the diamond fields have suffered sexual abuse and degrading treatment by the police stationed in Marange.

The Human Rights Watch notes that the reign of terror unleashed on women and the local villagers has continued over the years.

The human rights watchdog said soldiers subject villagers to unlawful and arbitrary searches and detain them to extort money and rape.

The human rights body also said the soldiers search houses without the necessary search warrants and force local women and children to cook for them and slaughter livestock.

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