This paper examines the 2005 elections in Zimbabwe in the context of persistent gender inequalities that have existed since 1980. These inequalities have been exacerbated by an entrenched patriarchal culture and an electoral system that neither facilitates nor adds value to the increased representation and participation of women. The 31 March 2005 parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe were held amid profound struggles and disagreements over how best to change the formal political machinery. At the same time, struggles by the opposition to broaden and deepen political, economic and civil rights had intensified. Within this same struggle for democratisation the women’s movement has defined itself by a liberal human rights based agenda and has waged the struggle at two levels. The first is the level of a feminist consciousness, where women have fought a war against patriarchy since 1980, through a critique of discriminatory legislation and demands for committed measures to increase women’s political representation. The second is at the oppositional level, where some women’s groups in alliance with other civil society organisations and opposition political parties have challenged the state and the legitimacy of the ZANU-PF rulers and the lack of a free participatory environment. A reflection on the results of the 2005 elections shows that women have not won these two battles. Patriarchy still remains entrenched in political institutions and political parties. A culture that uncritically accepts the need for women as political leaders does not exist. The under representation of women in Zimbabwe has been so stark since 1980 that the injustice seems beyond question. When women occupy a mere 16 per cent of the seats in Parliament, it should be clear that there is something unsatisfactory in the current political arrangements or in the electoral system.
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Categories: Journal of African Elections