BY PHYLLIS MBANJE/PRESTIGE MUNTANGA
WOMEN rights defenders have urged government to align laws with constitutional provisions that protect the girl child and women to end the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV).
Zimbabwe yesterday joined other nations across the world in launching the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV which is commemorated from November 25 to December 10.
This year’s commemorations are held under the theme Orange the World, End Violence Now.
In Harare, Women Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni decried an increase in child marriages, some as young as 11 years, saying it was unacceptable.
“To this effect, our national campaign for this year is premised on the theme End Violence Against Women and Girls Now; No to Child Marriages,” Nyoni said.
“Prior to the global crisis, Zimbabwe Republic Police statistics painted a grim picture of the prevalence of violence against women and girls, and emerging data and reports from actors on the frontline indicate that GBV is on the rise, particularly child marriages.”
Shamwari yeVanasikana director Ekenia Chifamba said laws should be aligned with the Constitution to fight GBV.
“We continue to call for the passing of the Marriage Bill into law. The full arm of the law needs to take its place. We have policies and laws that protect the girl child, but these are not being implemented,” she said.
“We need them to be implemented so that the girl child is fully protected. Child marriages are a form of GBV against the girl child. We have been calling for the mandatory sentencing of sex offenders.”
Tag a Life International (TaLI) director Nyaradzo Mashayamombe told delegates at the first-ever Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) conference that girls and women throughout the world were struggling to rebuild their lives after the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected their livelihoods.
The conference drew participants form east, southern and west Africa.
“The conference has provided a platform for African girls to discuss their developmental issues as it relates to the impact of COVID-19 on their rights, and to influence African governments to provide resources to support them,” Mashayamombe said.
Tanzanian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Emmanuel Mbena called for equitable access to resources to women and adolescent girls.
In a statement yesterday, Platform for Youth and Community Development called for an increase in levels of consciousness on issues related to sexual reproductive health rights, and urged government to train ward-based gender activists as mentors to young female victims.
In Bulawayo, Women’s Institute for Leadership Development director Samukeliso Tshuma urged the media to expose cases of GBV by amplifying the voices of young women that are also victims.
“Media practitioners must desist from portraying GBV victims in a negative manner. Some media practitioners have been using the media to destroy women in the manner that they have been documenting them as victims of abuse, sapping the GBV narratives and misrepresenting facts,” Tshuma said.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services ambassador and director of Inside Out Development Trust, Clarence Garura Kirah, urged men to play a leading role in ending GBV and early child marriages.
“There is nothing worse than impregnating a girl child. So we are saying that older men should stay away from girl children,” Kirah said.
Abangane Platform director Zibusiso Munandi said abuse of females contributed to mental health problems.
United Nations statistics revealed that one in three women globally have been abused in their lifetime.