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Organization Demands African Action on Rape During 2008 Zimbabwe Elections

AIDS Free World Co-Director Stephen Lewis and survivors of widespread politically motivated rape during the 2008 election period demanded African institutions open an investigation and prosecute the perpetrators

New York-based advocacy organization AIDS Free World and rape victims have urged African governments to prosecute supporters of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party alleged to have committed widespread rape to terrorize the political opposition during 2008 elections.

Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS Free World, told journalists that there is indisputable evidence that Mr. Mugabe believes he can sanction rape without fear of consequences. Zimbabwean human rights activist Elinor Sisulu called for concrete steps to prevent similar abuses before another election is held.

President Mugabe was declared the winner of last year's presidential election, but the results were widely rejected abroad as a sham. His ZANU-PF party was later forced to form a unity government with the MDC, but the uneasy coalition has come close to breaking apart several times.

VOA Studio 7 correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported from Johannesburg.

Thursday was International Human Rights Day, and one Zimbabwean rights groups issued a statement saying that as long as repressive laws remain on the books, human rights in the country will continue to be compromised.

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Chairman Dzikamai Machingura said the national unity government must repeal laws like the Public Order and Security Act to advance human rights, telling VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that this must be a priority if free elections are ever to be held.

Elsewhere, the United States Agency for International Development announced the winners of the 2009 Auxillia Chimusoro awards for helping raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and fighting the stigma attached to the disease.

The Harare ceremony was graced by American actress and Population Services International HIV/AIDS Ambassador Debra Messing.

Winners included journalist Hopewell Chin’ono for his film: “Pain In My Heart,” which told the story of two people trying to survive with HIV. Judges praised Chinono’s “commitment, creativity and sensitivity” to HIV and AIDS issues.

For community participation the Batanai Support group was honored for its contribution and commitment mitigating the AIDS crisis.

Soccer administrator Chris Sambo was honored for showing “conviction and innovation” in expanding and deepening public discourse on HIV/AIDS. Sambo formed Zimbabwe's first soccer for women living with HIV.

Barclays Bank was recognized for its HIV/AIDS workplace policy.

Judges also recognized Dr. Rose Kambarami of state-run Parirenyatwa Hospital, founder of the institution's pediatric HIV/AIDS clinic.

The awards are named for Xuxillia Chimusoro who disclosed her HIV-positive status in 1987 before doing so was socially acceptable.

U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray said the American government would continue to support the fight against the disease in Zimbabwe.