Documentary, Human Rights Reports Chronicle Zimbabwe’s Use of Rape Against Dissidents

The United Nations Regional Information Networks recently carried a report about the premier of “In A Dark Time,” a documentary about groups affiliated with Zimbabwe’s corrupt government using rape as a weapon against dissidents in that country.

For example, the film includes a 16-year-old girl describing how a pro-government militia seize her and her siblings and then raped her as a punishment for her mother’s support of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and Physicians for Human Rights have all documented the ongoing systematic use of rape in Zimbabwe over the past several years. A 2002 Amnesty International report warned of “mounting reports of rape and sexual torture by the [pro-government] militia . . .”

UNRIN reports that studies of the use of torture and other illegal tactics by the government of Zimbabwe and its supporters have found that 40 percent of those subjected to such attacks have been women, who are frequently stripped naked and beaten. Beginning in the summer of 2001, pro-government supporters began using rape and other means of sexual torture with increasing frequency against female supporters of the opposition.

According to UNRIN, the pro-government militias are also illegally kidnapping women and forcing them into concubinage. The young women are forced to perform various domestic duties for the soldiers as well as have sex with them.

All of this, of course, is a direct violation of the Geneva Convention and other international treaties. Ironically, the documentary about these abuses was premiered in South Africa. South AFrica’s Thabo Mbeki has been a leading proponent of a policy of constructive engagement toward Zimbabwe, and has called, for example, for the readmission of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth after its membership was suspended due to rising levels of political violence (Mbeki has also restored to calling critics of his appeasement policy “white supremacists”).


Focus on rape as a political weapon. UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, April 8, 2003.

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