One-stop centre for survivors of abuse

Musasa Project, a women’s support group, has built a centre in Harare to offer services to survivors of rape and other sexual abuse.

Tariro Tandi
Tariro Tandi

The centre, funded with help from the Japanese embassy, will provide medical, legal, psycho-social support and refuge to affected girls and women.

Musasa wanted to open its own centre to reduce their reliance on external institutions and to save time and money, says Tariro Tandi, the projects advocacy and legal coordinating officer.

“Victims will stay at the centre for up to six months while waiting for their cases to be brought before the courts. It will be a chance for their physical and psychological scars to heal and for them to find a permanent safe place,” Tandi said.

She said the centre would be convenient for both survivors and specialists providing services, as everything would be under a single roof. She, however, declined to reveal the cost of the project.

Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Home at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare has a similar facility at its Adult Rape Clinic, but only caters for a few victims, mainly from the Harare catchment area.

Musasa’s activities are aimed at preventing gender-based violence in Zimbabwe. The organisation works on shaping policy as well as providing temporary shelter for women fleeing violence.

According to the police, 664 women and girls have been raped during the past 10 months – 334 were adults and, the remainder were children, which is a six per cent rise in child abuse and rape cases. For adults, the increase was three per cent.

During the first half of 2013, more than 1,600 children were reported raped in Zimbabwe, mainly by relatives and neighbours.

President Robert Mugabe has called on the criminal justice system to impose stiffer sentences on perpetrators of rape, especially those who target children, a view strongly shared by Musasa.

Community service and short jail terms preferred by courts in some rape cases were described as a slap in the face for victims and for the dignity of women generally. Tandi said Musasa preferred life sentences for people who raped toddlers and minors. She said punishment against rape was not severe in Zimbabwe possibly because it was not taken seriously.

“It pains me to imagine society allowing a rapist to marry the victim to avoid the legal system taking its course,” said Tandi.

She urged survivors to come out and seek help.

As part of their campaign against rape, Musasa joined with the Ministry of Women Affairs and The British Embassy on a march in Harare this week. More than 2,000 participants were expected to walk from Harare Unity Square to the Harare Gardens to hear speakers talk about gender violence.

“We expect men to be part of the procession and gathering, since rape doesn’t only affect women. Men should realise that their mother, daughter, sister or wife is a potential victim of rape,” Tandi said.

The march is part of the 16 days of activism and will be used as a vehicle for urging communities to support rape survivors.

Musasa said they would take the campaign into 2014 as part of their planned three-year campaign against gender violence.

Tandi said it would take a change of mind-set by men for rape to be eliminated. She blamed men for regarding women as mere sex objects.

Post published in: News

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