Sixteen days, one goal – an end to gender-based violence

Zimbabwe this week joined the rest of the world in commemorating 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

“I know a lot of women who are being abused but they cannot come out in the open for fear of breaking up their marriages.” – Primrose Moyo.
“I know a lot of women who are being abused but they cannot come out in the open for fear of breaking up their marriages.” – Primrose Moyo.

The international campaign, which raises awareness about gender violence as a human rights issue at local, national, regional and international level, has come at a time when cases of domestic violence are on the increase in Zimbabwe according to women’s rights organisations.

According to the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, the country’s courts handled more than 2,600 cases of domestic violence between January and April this year.

“The current statistics shared by the chief magistrate’s office indicate that from January to April 2013, a total of 2,654 new cases of domestic violence were received by the courts. These figures justify the need to recognise the gaps that slow down the reduction of gender-based violence (GBV) by scaling up efforts in identifying where GBV cases are prone,” said Caroline Matizha, the head of the gender department in the ministry.

It is also estimated that most women in Zimbabwe experience violence at the hands of a partner at some point in their lives.

“In most instances, men are to be blamed for GBV. If we are to develop and prosper as a nation, we need to nip GBV in the bud. The country’s economy is losing millions every year as a result of productive women who cannot go to work because they have been abused and beaten by their husbands. Some are even mentally traumatised to the extent that they cannot even concentrate at their workplaces,” said Jubilant Mangaba, an economics student at the University of National Science and Technology.

Mangaba said there was an urgent need for more tools to pressure stakeholders such as the government, employers and education institutions to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women.

Primrose Moyo said a lot of victims of gender violence in the country were suffering and licking their wounds in silence because the perpetrators were also the ones in charge.

“I know a lot of women who are being abused but they cannot come out in the open for fear of breaking up their marriages. Culturally, a man is the head of the family and he is not supposed to be challenged about what he does. The other problem is that most of the institutions of redress, such as police stations, are not women-friendly,” said Moyo.

Simon Murabwe Shumba bemoaned the rise of politically motivated gender-based violence especially during election times.

“Sexual violence during election times remains a major barrier to women’s safety, political participation and reintegration, as its effects are physically, psychologically and socially debilitating.

“This violence is perpetrated by political activists as a way of achieving their political goals,” said Shumba.

Sethulo Ncube, the Southern region coordinator of Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), said GBV cases were on the rise in the country.

“On average, we attend about 30 cases involving women every day. Most of the cases we deal with involve domestic violence and matrimonial disputes. However our capacity to deal with such cases is limited due to lack of resources. If we are to eliminate this problem, we need to strengthen local work around violence against women,” said Ncube.

The 16 days campaign began on November 25 and ends on December 10. This year’s campaign theme is From peace in the home to peace in the world: let’s challenge militarism and end violence against women

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