Outcry over sexist remarks by opposition MP

By Violet Gonda
9 October 2006

Timothy Mubhawu, the Tsvangirai-MDC Member of Parliament for Mabvuku, has sparked an outcry over outrageous comments he allegedly made about women during a recent parliamentary debate on the Domestic Violence Bill.

Mubhawu stated that: “It is against God's principles that men and women are equal”. He went on to say that the Domestic Violence Bill should look at the way women dress, because “some of the dressing by women is too inviting.”

Lucia Matibenga, the chairperson of the Tsvangirai-MDC Women’s Assembly, said what the MP said was wrong and at cross purposes with their party position. She said; “The reaction from the Women’s Assembly within the party was that we found that quite outrageous that the MP was able to speak that position in parliament, because the party position on the Bill is quite clear. That we support the Bill and were actually saying the Bill was long overdue.” Matibenga added; “We strongly feel that the party, in terms of protocol, has to deal decisively with the conduct of Mr Mubhawu in parliament.”
Sources within the MDC women’s movement say the legislator should issue a public apology. We tried to contact Mr Mubhawu for a comment but were told he was in a meeting. The Domestic Violence Bill which seeks to give protection to victims, is expected to go to the committee stage on October 17th.
The Mabvuku legislator is also reported to have said in parliament: "I stand here representing God Almighty. Women are not equal to men. It is a dangerous Bill and let it be known in Zimbabwe that the right, privilege and status of men is gone. I stand here alone and say this bill should not be passed in this House. It is a diabolic Bill. Our powers are being usurped in daylight in this House."
The news has been received with widespread condemnation, especially from the Women’s Coalition who plan to hold a protest march in Harare on Tuesday. There was no immediate comment from the organisers about the planned demonstration.
Political commentator Professor Stanford Mukasa wrote in an email; “Mr. Timothy Mubhawu’s comments, if he indeed was correctly quoted, were completely sexist, unfair to women, uncalled for and way out of line. We should all express our great indignation on this and call upon Mr. Mubhawu to withdraw them and apologize to women.”

Professor Mukasa said women are playing a leadership role in the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe. And they are doing so under a male dominated culture that represses women.

He said the MDC offers the people of Zimbabwe a new hope for a Zimbabwe that is free of sexism, tribalism, ethnicity, exploitation and violation of basic human rights. “Mr. Mubhawu cannot be both a leader in this struggle for emancipation and utter such remarks. He must stand up and tell us where he stands. And he must do so NOW.”

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