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Answer – VP/HR – Widows deprived of property rights in Zimbabwe – E-000396/2017

The Constitution of Zimbabwe (Section 56) has strong equality and non-discrimination provisions, including gender equality and women empowerment provisions. However, most of them have not yet been fully implemented. According to many organisations promoting the rights of women in Zimbabwe, widows in both rural and urban areas are exposed to property grabbing and violence both in unregistered and registered marriages. Widows are often threatened by relatives using cultural beliefs.

Protection of women's rights and women empowerment is a core priority of the EU in Zimbabwe. The EU supports several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working on women's rights in their ongoing efforts to raise awareness on legal provisions related to inheritance and to provide legal aid and representation to widows.

Furthermore, EU assistance enables local NGOs to ensure a close follow-up on inheritance laws' implementation. Under the 11th European Development Fund, a ‘Justice Programme’ (EUR12 million) will target the supply side of the justice system (Courts, Ministry of Justice) with the aim of enhancing efficiency and effectiveness and tackling corruption.

This will contribute to the removal of structural barriers to accessing justice for ordinary citizens, such as widows fighting for their property rights.

Through its regular political dialogue, the EU will continue to urge the Government to speed-up the reform of marriage laws in order to have a single legal framework consistent with the Constitution and to allow traditional leaders to register marriages.

In parallel, the EU will continue to support the Government's reform agenda to strengthen institutions, particularly Parliament, Gender Commission and the Justice delivery system.

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