Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Africa-based international law projects

(Delighted to welcome back alumna Bonita Meyersfeld, who contributes a 2-part series of guest posts on international law in Africa. Part 2 is below; Part 1, published yesterday, is here.)

Having described the overall work of the Southern and Eastern African Regional Centre for Women’s Law at the University of Zimbabwe, I continue in this post with descriptions of research in progress:
Makanatsa Makonese (left), a Doctor of Philosophy Candidate, is examining Zimbabwe’s Post-Independence Land Reform Laws and Policies and Their Impact on Women’s Right to Agricultural Land: A Critical Analysis of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme from 2000 and Beyond.
This research seeks to assess the availability or otherwise of a legal, policy, and institutional framework governing the Fast Track Land Reform Programme in Zimbabwe. The focus is on women and their right to access, own, and control agricultural land. The effect over the years of the country’s property laws in general, and land laws in particular, will be critically examined. The goal is to establish whether there have been any efforts during the implementation of the fast track land reform programme to break away -- away from a system that subjugates women in property ownership and toward one that recognises women as equal partners in national economic, social, and political development and transformation.
A primary focus of the research is the recognition that the fast track land reform programme was and is not just about parcelling out land but also about: creating social classes; developing jurisprudence around land ownership and reform in Zimbabwe; and setting up centres and sources of power that are critical in shaping the country in various ways. The position of women in the matrix and the country’s level of compliance with international human rights standards and best practices therefore have to be examined.
The nuance of the work is its engagement in a rights analysis in a context of rights violations; namely, the land grabs and concomitant displacement of landowners.
► Research by Renifa Madenga (left), also a Doctor of Philosophy Candidate, is entitled Using Women’s Voices/Experiences To Interrogate The Efficacy Of The International Criminal Justice System on Rape: The case of Rwanda 1994 Genocide. (credit for photo (c) Robert H. Jackson Center)
Her study explores the lived reality and experience of rape survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It is sited in the web of fears, needs, relationships, and anxieties that affect survivors of rapes committed during the Rwandan genocide, as well as their interactions with the international criminal justice system at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Using the voices and experiences of survivors and witnesses, the study interrogates the efficacy of the justice system. Its major questions: Does the system acknowledge and condemn the egregious abuses suffered by victim survivor witnesses? Does it recognize and addresse the needs, fears, and aspirations of those survivor witnesses?
The researcher, Madenga, works as an Appeals Counsel in the ICTR Office of the Prosecutor, and chairs that office's 3-year-old Sexual Violence Committee.
Annette Mudola Mbogoh, another Doctor of Philosophy Candidate, is researching The 2007 Post-Election Violence As A Spring Board For Peace, Reconciliation And Reparation: A Case For The Participation And Involvement Of Women In Mombasa, Kenya.
The study investigates the participation of women in Mombasa in peace, reconciliation, and reparation processes through Kenya's Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. Women suffered gross human rights violations in recurrent electoral violence in Mombasa -- in 1992, in 1997, and in the unprecedented 2007 general elections. (Prior IntLawGrrls posts available here.) Women have been internally displaced, lost their loved ones, their property, and their businesses. They are survivors of physical violence and rape. However, their voices, needs, and concerns have been sidelined in the current transitional justice process in Kenya (flag at right). The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission presents an opportunity for women’s voices, injustices, and stories to be heard, investigated, documented, and redressed in the ensuing reparation programmes.
Against this backdrop, this research investigates the level of participation of women in the unfolding truth commission process, as well as the factors hindering women’s active involvement. It seeks both to document injustices committed against women by virtue of their sex and to identify priority concerns and preferred reparations on the part of survivors. It interrogates the question of truth-telling versus justice. The study highlights the importance of reparations to achieve true reconciliation and the extent to which women’s multiple identities influences their choice between collective and individual reparations. The study explores the politics of representation amongst women in a very polarized and ethnicized community. It furthers the debate on the right to truth, which has been expounded by the institutions of the inter-American human rights system. These arguments are hinged on the new Constitution of Kenya, which enshrines women’s right to equality and representation in legislative bodies through reservation of special seats. Finally, the study recommends implementation of a gender perspective in peace and reconciliation efforts, as is espoused in international instruments such as U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820.
► Under examination by Catherine Makoni is The Impact of the Political Crisis in Zimbabwe on Women’s Right to Protection of the Law: An Investigation into the Handling of Cases of Politically Motivated Rape from 2000-2009.
Makoni's research investigates how cases of politically motivated rape have been dealt with, if at all, within the justice system of Zimbabwe (flag at right). The objective is to interrogate the duty of the state to protect women, and therefore its role to provide sufficient and meaningful redress. The research undertakes an empirical assessment of what assistance victim survivors of rape have received from both state and nonstate actors -- including officials of their own political party, who have undertaken to protect party members from acts of violence and intimidation by the ruling party. The study further seeks to influence responses by all these actors.
Rape was used as a tool for political coercion during the election periods in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008. The political crisis had an impact on how cases of politically motivated rape were dealt with at multiple levels. In brief, the State failed in its duty to protect women. The perceived inviolability of the perpetrators, as a result of their perceived political affiliation, determines whether allegations of rape are reported, investigated, prosecuted, and adjudicated. The law as presently formulated is not sufficient to cover the total scope of rape as it occurs when used as a tool for political coercion.
Rosalie Kumbirai Katsande, a Lecturer at the Centre, is Exploring the Potential of Laws and Procedures Governing Business Entities in Facilitating Women’s Entrepreneurial Development in the Horticultural Sector of Zimbabwe.
Inspiring this research is a passage in Peasants, Traders and Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbawe 1870 – 1939 (1996), in which Dr. Elizabeth Schmidt, Professor of History at Loyola University Maryland, writes:

When the Jesuit father A Hartmann visited the Shona Chief Chipanga in about 1891, he asked the chief how numerous the people where including women and children, the chief reportedly answered, 'women are not counted'. He then took a handful of dust from the ground and said, 'that is the woman. Hartman concluded that women were regarded as almost nonexistent.
In her own research project, Katsande explores women entrepreneurs in the horticulture sector of Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe. Her work interrogates the appropriateness for the development of business regimes by government authorities for women in rural areas. In an effort to determine the appropriateness of current such regimes, the study traces the economic history of Zimbabwe and shows how women’s economic initiatives have been marginalized by historical processes. Laws designed during colonial governance continue to inform and limit women’s entrepreneurial potential and development.
Historically, state officials discouraged Zimbabwean women from settling in the towns and at the mines. The officials opposed the growth of a permanent and potentially explosive African population in the urban areas, and encouraged women and children to subsidize male wages through agricultural production at rural homesteads. State officials expected rural-based women to bear the social costs of production -- caring for the sick, disabled, and retired workers -- while raising the next generation of labourers. Innovation by women was deeply affected by legislative and policy restrictions.
Against this backdrop, the study considers the current government’s people-centred development approach from an African feminist perspective, which, inter alia, focuses on empowering African women to improve their own lives.
The study reveals challenges to community income-generating projects initiated by the Zimbabwean Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development. These are reported to have failed to address women’s economic needs; indeed, they present more of a burden, as they add work on already overworked women.
Women in the areas of study are running potentially viable horticultural ventures. The profitability of these ventures is dependent on agricultural support and training; however, this is not being received. Instead, women in these communities are presented with artificially constructed income-generating projects.

These are some of the impressive projects under way at the Centre. Perhaps of primary importance is the investigation of the realities of individual lives and how to link them into the international human rights agendas through national legal and policy frameworks.

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