BY CATHERINE MUCHIRI
THE Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) has urged the government and parliament to speedily conclude crafting of the Marriages Bill to aid the fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Speaking at a WCoZ conference to discuss gender based violence (GBV) on Tuesday in Harare, Female Prisoners Support Trust (Femprist) director Rita Nyamupinga said urgent completion of the Bill is imperative to end the scourge.
The event coincided with the 16 days of activism against GBV that is observed every year in December throughout the world. It was supported by UN Women under the spotlight initiative.
“Government must urgently conclude the enactment of the Marriages Bill, which seeks to criminalise and penalize child marriages. There is a need to urgently enact clear specific harassment laws. The judiciary should expeditiously deal with cases of GBV against women, and do so in a manner that passes a message of deterrence to offenders,” Nyamupinga said.
“The lockdown period put to curb COVID-19 has brought an increase in the rates of violence against women. This is because the women and girls are trapped with their abusers with nowhere to go. Child marriages have also increased during this period.”
Speakers from different parts of Africa also raised concern over discrimination of women in different sectors such as legal, politics, religion, business, and access to sexuality and sexual and reproductive health (SRH), tradition and culture, as well as in service delivery, to end their marginalisation.
The women’s groups recommended that females must be protected against harassment in public spaces, including public transport where some have been sexually abused.
“There is need for the government to introduce ”big buses” to reduce cases of violence against women and children. Women and girls continue to be subjected to violence in both public and private spaces’. The public transport system is becoming a new breeding space for perpetrators of GBV,” Nyamupinga said.
She said women must be mobilised and engaged from grassroots level to understand their rights and prevent GBV.
“National monitoring bodies such as Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) must have the capacity to execute their official mandate in order to be effective,” she said.
The conference resolved to call on various stakeholders, international partners, civil society organisations and the government to have a dedicated budget to increase domestic funding for national domestic GBV intervention programmes.