Muchinguri pledges gender violence crackdown

The government plans to help communities form committees to tackle gender-based violence, says Oppah Muchinguri, the minister of women affairs, gender and community development.

Oppah Muchinguri
Oppah Muchinguri

Interviewed on the sidelines of a meeting organised by women’s groups and civic societies during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Muchinguri said the cabinet has already approved the plan.

“We should start putting together committees that will cascade from national level down to the provinces, districts and wards with strict responsibilities for fishing out perpetrators of gender violence. The committees will consist of police, traditional leaders and women’s groups, like Musasa Project, among other stakeholders,” she said.

The committees will gather information on offenders who claim protection from prosecution either because of their connections in high office or through the application of traditional myths.

“We have reports of high-ranking people who are committing gender violence crimes in their homes and their spouses fear to report them,” said Muchinguri. “We are also getting reports that some women, especially in rural areas, are victims of gender violence but traditional myths discourage them from disclosing what happens inside their homes.

“In some cases, women who are severely injured find reasons to lie to their neighbours to protect their husbands. That is why we want to put together committees which will talk to victims and unravel all those crimes.”

In November 2011, there was a high profile case on gender violence involving the wives of high profile figures who were physically abused but suffered in silence. The matter involved Jocelyn Chiwenga, the former wife of the army commander Constantine. Jocelyn claimed she endured beatings at the hands of her husband but failed to report the cases because he threatened to shoot her. She also revealed that, to conceal the matters, Chiwenga sent her to Malaysia for treatment.

A recent study by Muchinguri’s ministry, in conjunction with Gender Links, a women rights group, showed that 68 per cent of women in Zimbabwe have suffered from gender-based violence. Other reports have suggested that 75 per cent of married women have been raped by their husbands but were afraid to make reports to police. Activists have called for stiffer penalties for perpetrators of gender-based violence as a deterrent.

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  1. Surviving silence.

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