Source: Research and Advocacy Unit, Harare
By Rumbidzai Dube
Identity documents are tags reflective of an individual’s history and heritage. Without identity documents individuals fall into a bureaucratic limbo as procedures for telling who they are, where they are from, and to whom they are connected are lost. Traditional African culture in Zimbabwe also recognized the importance of identity – hence the collective groupings that existed defined along the lines of one’s totem; e.g. Dube, Khumalo, Dlodlo, Moyo, Shumba, Ndlovu, etc. Identity links an individual to a society, and, from that link, the individual derives benefits and privileges that could not otherwise be claimable if they were not a part of the group. From an officially recognized identity arise rights and obligations that shape people’s lives. As important an item as an identity document is, it should not be denied an individual without good reason.
This report looks into the right to identity from the perspective that women are and have always been disadvantaged in Zimbabwe because of the patriarchal nature of the society in which they live. Although there are standing decisions of the courts and laws that change various social standpoints that previously impeded women’s ability to exercise their rights, women still face problems in exercising these rights because of the same patriarchal society standing in their way, or due to legal illiteracy. This report thus seeks to expose the nature of the right to an identity document or officially recognized identity in the Zimbabwean and global context, privileges arising from that right, problems faced by people who are denied that right, and the overall impact of the denial of the right to identity on women in their capacity as mothers, child rearers, bread winners, and civilians in general.
Download: A Right or a privilege