Policies on abortion: Women's Experiences of Living through a Gendered Body in Zimbabwe


  • Kezia Batisai University of Cape Town




This article profiles the politics of abortion in Zimbabwe, a country with restrictive legal frameworks on reproductive rights that are influenced by customary or cultural practices. The article first maps the international policy landscape on reproductive and sexual rights, and the laws governing the termination of pregnancy. Thereafter, it examines the extent to which international policy discourses inform national frameworks governing women’s sexual bodies in Zimbabwe. As such, the article analyses cultural and legal discourses that continue to shape the reproductive and sexual rights landscape in Zimbabwe. It is in this contextual section of the paper that I capture the struggles about body ownership exposed by academics and activists as well as discourses around the construction of women as reproductive objects and young women’s realities of abortion that emerged from my engagement with elderly women in rural Zimbabwe[1]. A critical integration of scholarly debates and empirical findings on abortion exposes how the effects of the criminal tag attached to abortion in Zimbabwe are experienced by women who terminate their pregnancies in a country where the body is heavily patrolled by the state. Central to this paper is the inference that as the state sets the parameters of sexuality, it (re)defines the meaning of being Zimbabwean for those gendered as women. I conclude that engaging with the moral and legal boundaries that emerge as the state patrols the body deepens one’s insight into the meaning of citizenship or nationhood in Zimbabwe, which women often negotiate through their gendered bodies.


Keywords: Gendered bodies; Abortion; Citizenship; Zimbabwe.

[1] This paper draws on Batisai, K. (2013) Body politics: - an illumination of the landscape of sexuality and nationhood? Re-seeing Zimbabwe through elderly women’s representations of their sexual and gendered lives, Cape Town, University of Cape Town (PhD thesis).

Author Biography

Kezia Batisai, University of Cape Town

PhD Candidate, Gender Studies