via Rising violence against women & girls in Zimbabwe | SW Radio Africa by Nomalanga Moyo on Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The globally commemorated 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence kicked off Monday, amid reports that the abuse of women and children is on the increase in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean women are no strangers to gender-based violence as, over the decades, they have suffered all sorts of abuse including rape, forced marriage, torture and death at the hands of their male counterparts.
In response, many advocacy and rights groups have been working to explore ways of raising awareness in the hope of curbing this abuse.
Despite these efforts, reports point to a rise in cases of gender-based crimes across the country, with the highest numbers recorded in Mashonaland Central Province, where politically-motivated violence is also high.
In Harare alone over 650 women and girls were raped in the last 10 months, according to a Herald newspaper report.
The report also noted that in June this year, 12 cases of murder were before the High Court, an increase of 60% on last year’s figures.
A statement posted on Facebook by the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe – an umbrella body representing more than 200 women’s rights groups – called on Zimbabweans to use the 16 days campaign to denounce all forms of gender-based violence.
The group expressed alarm at the “increasing cases of gender-based violence in the country” where “68% of women have experienced some form of violence”.
Msasa Project, one of the first groups to provide counselling and temporary shelter to women survivors of domestic violence, is recording an average of 300 cases of violence against women each month.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa Tuesday, Msasa Project director Netty Musanhu said the figures are worrying and called for serious reflection on the part of all groups working in this area, the government and society at large.
“The statistics gathered through cases reported to us, the police and the courts are very worrying and indicate an increase in the number of women and girls being raped.
“So we are using these 16 Days to urge everyone to reflect on what these numbers really mean and represent. Does it mean that as a society we have lost our values when newspapers frequently carry reports of babies being raped?”
Musanhu blamed the political and economic conditions in the country for the rise in crimes against women and children.
“I think when a country is experiencing political, and economic problems the social fabric also breaks down with the stronger members of society preying on the weaker ones and in this case, women and children become the victims,” she said.
Musanhu also took a swipe at some churches which she said had become “havens of abuse”, saying the “get-rich-quick” gospel that has taken the country by storm is part of the problem.
She said religious and cultural beliefs, as well as downright criminality, were responsible for the disregard for women’s rights as indicated by the figures.
Asked whether these figures mean that Zimbabwe is failing in its fight against women’s human rights abuses, Musanhu said huge strides have been made in the policy area, including the passing of the Domestic Violence Act.
“But good laws are useless if they do not translate to positive action. The paltry sentences given to sexual violence perpetrators are a case in point,” she added.
The 16 Days of Activism is an annual global campaign that starts on November 25th (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and ends on Human Rights Day on December 10th.
The theme for this year is ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women’. Zimbabwean groups are focusing on sexual violence against women and children, in response to the surge in recorded incidents.