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Mugabe must learn to respect women

Opinion by Janet Otieno

Well I am not going to dwell on Zimbabwean politics but when a woman is attacked, it gets to my hair. 

Janet Otieno
Janet Otieno

When launching his election manifesto, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe suddenly and personally attacked his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma’s advisor Lindiwe Zulu,calling her “stupid idiotic woman” and a ” street woman,” to the applause of Zanu-PF supporters.

Ms Zulu is President Zuma’s international relations advisor and is part of Sadc’s mediation team on Zimbabwe. She had been rooting for Harare’s election postponement to facilitate reforms.

Well, could Mugabe have called a fellow man like Zuma stupid and idiotic?

The Free Dictionary defines a street woman or street walker as a prostitute, especially who solicits on the streets.

Well, when he launched this verbal assault, Zuma, who Ms Zulu has been representing, went mum. No official statement was issued in protest. Even women rights activists in Zimbabwe were silent. Did it mean they endorsed Mugabe’s insult on Ms Zulu simply because she was a woman?

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What exemplary leadership is that when a head of state can stand before a crowd and attack a woman as the wife smiles and supporters cheer?

Violence against women is among the most widespread forms of rights abuses in the world. The International Rescue Committee says that one out of every three women across the world will be abused during her lifetime.

Patriarchal mindsets

Violence against women comes in many forms: physical, psychological and verbal. I will dwell on verbal violence where someone uses ugly or hateful words, insults and accusations against women.

There is also financial violence where men with economic muscle use money to control or manipulate their women. Not to forget sexual violence where women are raped or forced to be pregnant against their wish.

Many studies have shown the devastating consequences of psychological and social violence against women. This calls for the re-assessment of the patriarchal mindsets among those who hold high office.

This is because in a patriarchal society like Africa, the language used especially by those who should be respected contributes to gender violence. And Mugabe indeed illustrated that abuse can happen to all kinds of women, regardless of their status and social class.

Once the leaders show that women are not worthy of respect, then that is it; their followers too have any problem following into those footsteps. There needs to be enough investment in all countries to fight women abuse in all its forms. Introducing strong pro-women policies is a good start.

It is sad we still live in a world where gender abuse thrives and where such does not raise eyebrows. Tolerating it can mean supporting the malady.

Choosing a public forum to insult a woman should have been a no-no for Comrade Bob. All those who are human enough should stand and fight all such forms of violence against women. Violence against women is violence against humanity. Africa Review.com