I take pride in having women in politics and I am sold out to the idea that there has to be more women actively participating in Zimbabwe’s political life.
Women in politics generally don’t have it easy and I think they are a tough breed – they have to be to survive that hostile environment.
Their career choice is a perilous one, requiring extreme personal sacrifice and a thick skin to endure sexism, harsh media scrutiny as well as the immense societal pressure to embody stereotypical behaviours associated with femininity.
They certainly don’t have it easy so the fact that they soldier on regardless qualifies them for my unreserved respect.
However, I see absolutely no reason why some female politicians resort to the use of diction that drips with sexual innuendo or rely on imagery associated with copulation, bodily fluids or such paraphernalia.
In many instances they have causes they are passionate about and seem to make the mistake of thinking that feeling strongly about an issue is enough to articulate it without a prepared speech.
When the Member of Parliament for Bulawayo Central Ms Dorcas Sibanda gave a public address during the International Women’s Day commemorations in Bulawayo last week, she allegedly opined that men in Zimbabwe "have too much sex"
She reportedly indicated that she had arrived at this conclusion after observing the abundance of condoms provided for free in many public places pointing to the fact that Zimbabwean men have too much sex.
From what I could deduce the point she was driving home was that condoms could be easily obtained for no cost at various public places including public toilets whereas sanitary pads were not similarly availed.
Basically condoms are ‘everywhere’ but sanitary pads are not provided freely – an observation that no one can dispute.
The lack of availability, affordability and in some instances accessibility of sanitary wear is a grievous omission in the discourse of health service provision pointing to the inadequacy of policies that take into consideration the unique sanitary needs of women.
The MP rightly made mention of this, however I have no idea how asserting that “men here [ie. Zimbabwe] love sex a lot” is particularly helpful in highlighting the above concern.
It’s a flippant and silly remark that draws attention away from the very important and valid point she was raising.
To make a critical analysis of her sentiment reductio ad absurdum, her remark about Zimbabwean men having too much sex implies that Zimbabwean women are also having too much sex.
It is hard to see how charging men with having too much sex fails to implicate the women they have that excessive sex with especially if the premise of that assertion is the fact that there are condoms available everywhere – men would hardly need condoms if they were having ‘too much sex’ by themselves.
And suppose we all agreed that Zimbabwean men love having sex and by extension Zimbabwean women were consenting to having ‘too much sex’ – that is hardly a useful piece of information to share – people can have as much sex as they like.
To suggest that the number of condoms availed for free at public places should be reduced as a measure of facilitating free sanitary pads in public places is ill-conceived in a nation where HIV and AIDS are pervasive realities.
In raising the issue of the lack of affordability of sanitary wear, the MP voices a legitimate concern which is commendable but then she follows this up by proffering a counter-productive remedy by reportedly asserting, “Those who put the condoms [in public places] should reduce their numbers and put sanitary pads instead”.
Condoms are just as important as sanitary wear; their function is a life-saving one and the function of sanitary wear is a dignity-saving one – both are crucial and non-negotiable.
The MP rightly asserts that, “Government should be in a position to subsidise pads since they can subsidise condoms” but then goes on to suggest that, “Men must limit sex”.
It is frustrating that her important message is consequently obscured by the outrageous statements she voices.
And it is the kind of outrageous statement that points to an ill-prepared presentation and the kind of ill-fated impromptu public addresses that so many other female politicians give.
Inevitably somewhere along the way an inappropriate remark slips out and ruins an otherwise great message.
Last year the Matobo Senator Ms Sithembile Mlotshwa, managed to hog the limelight for an unguarded remark that reflected unflatteringly on her reasoning capacities.
She reportedly made the unhelpful suggestion to the Senate that men must have their sex drive reduced such that they have sex once a month so as to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS.
This is the same Senator who reportedly opined that men must be castrated to curb HIV.
That idea is ridiculous and I am sure even she cannot defend it without casting aspersion on her sanity.
In my more charitable moments, I make allowance for the possibility that the Senator’s intention was to emphasize on the need for behaviour change as a means of reducing the spread of HIV.
I suspect that she felt so strongly about the issue that she blurted out that raw and unprocessed thought.
More recently she urged the Government to forgo clothes and food and provide “sex gadgets” in prisons to curb homosexuality insisting that “prisoners want their sexual desires to be quenched whether you like it or not”.
I shall make no attempt to fathom how she comes up with these ideas.
Recently Ms Thabitha Khumalo, the MP for Bulawayo East took up a crusade for the rights of sex workers and called for the decriminalization of sex work.
To drive her point home she coined the phrase ‘pleasure engineers’ and insisted on drawing biblical parallels to strengthen her case.
The MP tenuously implied there was some connection between the origins of sex work which she referred to as 'pleasure engineering' and the role of ‘Eve’ in the bible: “Pleasure engineering did not begin in Bulawayo or Zimbabwe but in the Garden of Eden and one of those pleasure engineers was Eve.”
My despair knows no bounds.
While I get the need to drive one’s points home and make some sensational statement that will carry the headlines.
I wonder how any of these women politicians can feel they have done justice to themselves, to their causes and to the whole agenda of having women in positions of power where they should be generating solutions and contributing viable ideas.
From my deductions, I take it that the MP understands the vulnerability of sex workers who are mostly ostracized and living on the margins. However if indeed she wishes to plead their case – I doubt using any reference or mention of the bible as a premise to argue for sex work will be helpful.
If anything, it would be a very difficult idea to sell to a nation where most people enjoy laying claim to being Christians.
Perhaps a better premise to advance the interests of sex workers is to use a rights-based framework and lay claim to various human rights instruments that Zimbabwe is a signatory to which call for non-discrimination.
Even then, in our somewhat conservative Zimbabwe, calling for the decriminalization of sex work would still be a huge battle to undertake.
Coining fancy phrases and making inferences to religion will not effectively communicate the concerns of sex workers in a way that would best highlight why sex work needs to be decriminalized.
Ideas are persuasive when they are presented in a logical way without grandstanding, undue militancy and ill-preparedness to engage in debate.
It is hardly helpful to her cause that the MP allegedly threatened to name and shame parliamentarians who seek the services of sex workers if her campaign was not accepted.
And one can hardly take comfort in the knowledge that Thabitha Khumalo has vowed that: “Every time I get a chance to speak in Parliament I will speak of the decriminalisation of prostitution”.
Seriously??? Is that what she intends to do with herself in parliament? As if the decriminalization of sex work is the only issue worth pursuing.
Space and time do not allow me to continue but I will round off with a woman I have admired for a while and whom I still harbour hopes of meeting one day – the Minister of Regional Integration and International Co-operation, Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
She holds the distinction of having been the sole woman negotiator in the power sharing talks that culminated in the Global Political Agreement being signed in 2008.
I have no doubt she can hold her own in a debate, that she has ideas and knows how to communicate them with effectiveness, ease and eloquence.
So why the hell is she included in this article?
Reportedly, the Minister recommended a sex strike as a tool to mobilize people to vote in the next elections.
I don’t know how exactly having sex and going to the polls correlate but she allegedly proffered this ‘strategy’ during a meeting at Magwegwe Hall in Bulawayo last year, recommending that women should deny their husbands and boyfriends sex to force them to vote.
These ideas had long been percolating in her mind as the media reported that the Minister penned an opinion piece unpacking the concept of sex strikes and what she believed where its successes.
So preparation was not an issue for her, just that her idea seemed rather farfetched to me.
I was later perturbed to read of a remark that she had allegedly made during a public meeting in Bulawayo where she referred to a ‘condom X-factor’ charging that “some of the region’s ministers have been condomised”.
I don’t think Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga is the kind of woman whose unquestionable intelligence requires the use of vulgarity to support the weight of an argument or insults to use as a crutch for her opinions.
The remark was both crude and ill-conceived; it did nothing to bolster her argument and merely diminished the quality of her considered opinion.
Perhaps she didn’t mean it. Perhaps she didn’t plan it. Nevertheless it was a reckless remark for which she is reported to have immediately apologized to Minister Sipepa Nkomo.
Perhaps her better judgment failed her in that instance.
But more likely, she was speaking passionately regarding an issue she felt strongly about – the perceived ineffectuality or nonchalance of the region’s political leaders who have often been accused of lacking the will to develop Matabeleland.
Whatever the case maybe, I for one have begun to wonder whether prepared speeches have gone out of fashion in the political sphere.
It is difficult to reconcile some of the reckless utterances being made by some female politicians with any concept of speech preparedness.
The tendency of uttering innuendos to shock people into attentiveness is detrimental to the goal of meaningfully engaging with issues or seeking viable solutions.
That is my considered view.