2 Introduction This report has been issued to coincide with the 16 days on gender activism, and concerns the organized violence and torture experienced by Zimbabwean women during the crisis that has engulfed Zimbabwe since 2000. The women described in this report have all fled Zimbabwe into exile in South Africa, and most are currently seeking political asylum. There have been enormous strides in protecting women‘s rights since the 1993 Vienna Conference, but it is trite to say that women‘s rights have come of age in the context of so much continued violence against women. Across the world, women‘s rights continue to be violated in both the public and the private sphere, and it is now widely accepted that women, and children, are the most common victims in situations where organized violence and torture become prevalent. Despite the enormously significant developments in women‘s rights since the Vienna Conference in 1993, it is still the case that women are frequently the first victims in civil conflict and become the major affected group in both internally and externally displaced populations. The violence experienced by women is a significant cause of increased morbidity. The World Health Organization has argued that collective violence is one of the more significant causes of mortality. The WHO recognizes various forms of collective violence, which include:1    Wars, terrorism and other violent political conflicts that occur within or between states. State-perpetrated violence such as genocide, repression, disappearances, torture and other abuses of human rights. Organized violent crime such as banditry and gang warfare. Whilst the first category rightly draws the greater attention of the world community, it is also the case that the second has become an area of increasing concern. Women are not only vulnerable during the obvious wars, but they are also at serious risk in states where repression is common. Whether it is termed ―collective violence‖ or ―organized violence‖, it is evident that such causes of morbidity are a serious health concern, and this concern is greater when the conflict leads to significant numbers of refugees or internally displaced persons. Refugees as a whole are more likely to report having been victims of organized violence and torture. One report estimates that between 5 to 35% of the world‘s refugees have had at least one experience of torture.2 A recent study of African refugees indicated that the prevalence of torture ranged from 25% to 69% by ethnicity and gender, and also found that women were tortured as often as men.3 This study commented upon the need to identify torture in African refugees, and especially in women. Other recent studies have pointed out that there are significant risks and worse outcomes for women, especially those who are older and more educated,4 and this replicates a number of other studies.5 1 See Krug,E.G., Dahlberg,L.L., Mercy, J.A., Zwi, A.B., & and Lozano, R. (eds), World report on violence and health, GENEVA: WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. 2002. 2 See BAKER,R. Psychosocial consequences for tortured refugees seeking asylum and refugee status in Europe, in M.BASOGLU(ED), Torture and Its Consequences: Current Treatment Approaches, CAMBRIDGE: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1993 . 3 See Jaranson, J.M., Butcher, J., Halcon, L., Johnson, DR., Robertson, C., Savik, K., Spring, M., & Westermeyer, J. 4 5 (2004), Somali and Oromo Refugees: Correlates of Torture and Trauma History, American Journal of Public Health, Vol 94, No. 4, 591-598. See Porter, M., & Haslam, N. (2005), Predisplacement and Postdisplacement Factors Associated With Mental Health of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons A Meta-analysis, JAMA. 2005;294:602-612. See, for example, Mollica ,R F, Lopes Cardozo, B, Osofsky, H J, Raphael, B, Ager,A, & Salama, P(2004), Mental health in complex emergencies, LANCET, 364: 2058–67.

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