The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Zimbabwe

By Vexen Crabtree 2019

#gender_equality #prejudice #women #zimbabwe #zimbabwe_women

Republic of Zimbabwe

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index174th best
Life Expectancy59.25yrs (2017)2

Zimbabwe is amongst the worst places in the world at ensuring human rights and freedom, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Zimbabwe does worse than average in terms of the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators)3, commentary in Human Rights Watch reports4, opposing gender inequality5 (still low for Africa), supporting press freedom6, its nominal commitment to Human Rights7, freethought8, LGBT equality9 and in speed of uptake of HR treaties10. And finally, it falls into the worst-performing 20 when it comes to supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms11. Zimbabwe has such a poor Human Rights record that political theorist Jack Donnelly in his book "Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice" (2013)12 included it amongst 3 countries for which "compliance with international human rights standards would mean removal of those in power"13. After dictator Robert Mugabe was ousted in 2017, he was replaced by his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, "who has his ownlong record of rights violations"14. Some existing human rights provisions from 2013 are routinely ignored by the government14.

1. Zimbabwe's Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #gender_equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to Africa (2020)15
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank15
1S. Africa56.1
43Congo, DR126.7
44Equatorial Guinea128.4
Africa Avg108.2
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)15
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank15
177Marshall Islands134.2
179Saudi Arabia134.5
World Avg87.9

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Norway and Denmark16. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Somalia and Tuvalu16.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators), the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe16, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia16.

For more, see:

Amnesty International's 2023-23 summary on human rights in Zimbabwe stated:

The right to freedom of expression was threatened with the cybercrimes law used to arrest journalists. Meanwhile the Private Voluntary Organization Amendment Bill would undermine the right to freedom of association if adopted. Members and supporters of the main opposition party were violently attacked at political rallies, leading to at least two deaths. Students were arrested for protesting against high fee increases and the government weaponized the law to persecute political opposition members. Two young men were unlawfully killed by law enforcement officers in August in separate incidents. The authorities took measures to control the spread of a measles outbreak that led to the deaths of hundreds of children. Legislation outlawing early and child marriage was introduced.

"The State of the World's Human Rights 2022/23" by Amnesty International (2023)17

2. Human Rights & Tolerance

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments
Higher is better4
81=S. Sudan-5
Africa Avg-5.6
World Avg-1.9
When it comes to commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, Zimbabwe comes 78th in the world.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR


Nominal Commitment to HR
Higher is better7
2=Costa Rica23
155Saudi Arabia10
156=Solomon Islands10
Africa Avg14.8
World Avg15.1
Zimbabwe ranks 148th in the world in terms of its nominal commitment to Human Rights.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag
Lower is better10
Avg Yrs/Treaty10
166Timor-Leste (E. Timor)13.73
171St Lucia14.11
Africa Avg9.88
World Avg10.02
Zimbabwe ranks 169th in the world regarding speed of uptake of HR treaties.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom
Lower is better11
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
145=Saudi Arabia144
151Congo, DR151
Africa Avg114.2
World Avg79.7
With regard to supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, Zimbabwe comes 12nd-worst in the world.

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)18

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #Freedom_of_Speech #Good_Governance #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom
Lower is better6
Africa Avg3511
World Avg3249
Zimbabwe ranks 132nd in the world with regard to supporting press freedom.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world, and is linked with Freedom of Speech and Good Governance. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted". The rankings are used as one of the datasets of the Social and Moral Development Index19

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

In 2017, several journalists and activists were subject to arbitrary arrest, harassment, and intimidation while participating in protests or reporting on demonstrations. [...]

On July 28, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA, Zimbabwe) led a journalists´ march to the Harare Central Police Station protesting police assault on three journalists of the privately owned NewsDay daily newspaper. Police had assaulted journalists Obey Manayiti, Shepherd Tozvireva, Abigail Mutsikidze, and their driver, Raphael Phiri, the previous day for allegedly taking photographs of the police beating protesters in Harare. [...]

State media remains partisan in favor of the ruling ZANU-PF party while limiting coverage of opposition political parties. The government has not repealed or amended the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and other laws that severely restrict basic rights and infringe on freedom of expression.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)14

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Lower is better
% Victims20
Africa Avg0.96
World Avg0.65
With regard to eliminating modern slavery, Zimbabwe is positioned 121st in the world.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory21. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends22. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life23. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves24.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery25. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity26. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.27. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi28, Eritrea28, Indonesia29) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery30.

For more, see:

3. Gender Equality

Zimbabwe is an unequal country, with male rights dominating those of women.

Two years after Zimbabwe´s Constitutional Court declared child marriage unconstitutional and set 18 as the minimum marriage age, the government has yet to amend or repeal all existing marriage laws that still allow child marriage. It also has not put structures in place to implement the court decision and ensure that girls under 18 are not forced into marriage. [...]

A January 2017 Human Rights Watch report found that widows are routinely evicted from their marital homes and their property confiscated by in-laws with little recourse to the formal justice system. Many of the victims struggled to claim rights for reasons unique to their status as widows. Few women formally own the property held during their marriage. As a result, they were unable to keep jointly held property upon the death of their husband. They are required to prove they were in fact married, which can pose great challenges, due to lack of access to the courts and the high cost of obtaining the necessary documents to ward off in-laws´ intent on property grabbing. The government has yet to raise awareness, review inheritance and marriage laws, and improve access to justice for women.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)14


3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality
Lower is better
Africa Avg0.54
World Avg0.36
(still good for Africa)Zimbabwe ranks 126th in the world in terms of opposing gender inequality.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchalism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

For more, see:

3.2. Gender Biases

#gender #gender_equality #prejudice #women

Gender Biases
Lower is better
2New Zealand34.432
66Burkina Faso98.633
Africa Avg98.10
World Avg83.93
Zimbabwe comes 21st-worst in the world in terms of the rate of gender bias (from 7 indicators).

The Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) looks at gender biases across seven criteria; the % given here is for the total people who are biased across any of those criteria. By subtracting the value from 100%, you can see that those who do well on this index, you are seeing a count of those who do not appear to be biased against women in any of the criteria, and so, doing well on this index is a very positive sign for any country.

The data was included in UN (2022) with full results in Annex table AS6.7.1; their data stems for ranges between 2005 and 2022, depending on the country in question.

3.3. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Lower is better
1New Zealand1893
173=Marshall Islands1979
Africa Avg1961
World Avg1930
Zimbabwe is positioned 16th-worst in the world in terms of the year from which women could participate in democracy.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

For more, see:

4. Prejudice

4.1. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #ICCPR #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

Mugabe had a particular hate for gay and lesbian folk and over the last two decades has stated repeatedly that "gays are worse than dogs and pigs"34 and it will take an exceedingly long time for basic tolerance towards LGBT folk to become the norm. Purely as a result of cultural prejudice and poor moral thinking, the Criminal Law Act, section 73, makes male homosexual relations illegal14, needlessly sending men to prison for private, consensual activity.

LGBT Equality
Higher is better
169St Kitts & Nevis-25
Africa Avg-10.4
World Avg12.6
With regard to LGBT equality, Zimbabwe is positioned 166th in the world.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence35. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws36. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries35. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.2. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

Freedom of Thought
Lower is better
149Myanmar (Burma)3.8
150=Sri Lanka3.8
Africa Avg3.1
World Avg3.0
Zimbabwe is positioned 149th in the world in terms of freethought.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights37. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish38. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era39 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted40. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief41. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands8,42 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia8,43.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed44. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief38, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion45 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"46 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see:

5. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#religion_in_zimbabwe #zimbabwe