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Zimbabwe Women Rally Against 'Indiscriminate' Anti-Prostitution Blitz

Zimbabwean activists protested Tuesday in the capital against what they are calling systematic arrests targeting women, often wrongfully accused of loitering, soliciting for prostitution and harboring criminals, among such other ills.

Led by prominent activists including renowned writer and politician Tsitsi Dangarembga, herself a victim of the arrests, over one hundred women rallied at the Africa Unity Square in Harare to express their outrage at the ongoing blitz.

Dangarembgwa said the situation was unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue.

Dubbed "Operation Chipo Chiroorwa" or "Operation Chipo Get Married", police in the capital are said to indiscriminately nab any woman they find on the streets alone at night.

Protester Rudo Chigudu, an educated and well-heeled socialite, narrated her ordeal at the hands of officers who accused her of loitering in the city for purposes of prostitution.

"One night I went out with a group of friends and when we came out of the bar to get into our car with my niece, two officers approached us and told us we were under arrest," said Chigudu.

"I explained that I had a right to know what I was being arrested for, and the police officer said I was being arrested for loitering."

Chigudu said even professional women who worked late hours were not being spared the indiscriminate arrests and harassment.

Another protester, Dorothy Takaendesa said she was arrested while waiting for her boyfriend near a city food court and fined for loitering.

Harare police spokesman James Sabau defended the infamous policy saying officers were merely enforcing the law and protecting civilians.

Dangarembga said the women protesters will submit a petition to police chief Augustine Chihuri and the Home Affairs Ministry demanding that their rights to freedom of movement and association be respected.

"In fact, loitering is not a crime or an offense in Zimbabwe, that law was repealed," she said.

"Other policemen will say it is because you are soliciting with intent to engage in sexual transactions. So many women are arrested when they are not soliciting but suspected of soliciting, there is no legal basis for these arrests."