Edited by Nyaradzo Mutonhori and Mukasiri Sibanda
56 women participating at the one week Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) Academy for Women, have noted with deep concern that Gender Based Violence (GBV) linked with ASGM sector, is a major problem that must be addressed urgently. GBV in the ASM sector deserves special attention. This statement is a summary of profound and compelling cases of GBV linked with ASGM and a call to action to different stakeholders, relevant government institution, corporates, media, development agencies and male counterparts in the ASGM sector.
1. Overlapping mining claims, double or multiple claim allocation increases women vulnerabilities to violence. The lack of a computerised mining title management system coupled with corrupt practices of Ministry of Mines and Mining Development officials and mainly male investors causes arbitrary displacement of women from gold claims. First In First Assessed principle not respected when it comes to women on claims with proven resources
2. Corruption by the police officers creates conditions were interpersonal violence frequently occurs in the ASGM sector as the police receive bribes and openly harass rightful women claim owners and their workers to hound them off their operations. This wanton disregard of the right to property (mining claims), is a perverse form of human rights violation against women in this sector.
3. The long delays in settling claim ownership disputes, which delays are often-times unnecessary, by the Ministry of Mines and the courts are a form of Gender Based Violence as they result in women suffering due to loss of livelihoods for them and their dependents mainly children who need school fees, food and clothing. These institutions of the state are equally actors in perpetrating structural gender based violence against women in the ASGM sector.
4. Women miners frequently face sexual and physical harassment from the male dominated labour-force who threaten to gang-rape them if they are not paid their expected share of proceeds regardless of gold output and expenses.
5. Illegal arrests and detention of women in ASGM by mostly male police officers on alleged crimes linked with ASGM make women vulnerable to sextortion. Men often possess financial muscle to bribe their way out of police custody but women in ASGM often do not have similar resources. The police often charge the women with the crime of Illegal possession of gold and when the women produce their mining licences the police change the charge to failure to produce register yet they do not ask for the registers upon arrest. Unrealistic regulations such as the Gold Trade Act which criminalised gold possession creates an enabling environment for the police to seek bribes and forced sex from women artisanal and small-scale miners. Women hurt the most from compliance risks due to high levels of poverty impeding their ability to acquire costly mining claims.
6. Violence caused by machete wielding gangs is making ASGM unsafe for women miners. Corrupt police officers are not arresting known gang leaders because of bribes.
7. During administration of deceased estates, where the estate involves a rich gold claim and where the likely beneficiary is a woman, the probability of them being dispossessed of the claim is very high compared to when it is a male beneficiary. This dispossession is coupled with emotional and physical harassment. The impunity for such violence against women points to structural tolerance and causes aggravation of violence against women facing such situations in ASGM.
Mining is one of the key economic sectors of the country and will be one of the sectors to contribute to the economic recovery of our country. The Constitution and the Broad-Based Women’s Economic Empowerment Framework call for gender equality and equal participation of men and women in key economic sectors. Gender Based Violence in ASGM is a way of excluding women from participating in this key economic sector. The state must stop being an aggressor of violence against women in ASGM by putting in place computerized mining title management and purging the Ministry of Mines and ZRP of corrupt elements. The government must sanitize the operating context for artisanal miners, ridding ASGM of violent machete wielding gangs. WE demand a State that that promotes freedoms and rights for all, intervenes where these freedoms and rights are threatened in key economic sectors like mining, and is structured on diversified forms of participative democracy by its citizens, men and women alike.