Since 1981, the 25th of November has been commemorated as the Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The day was specifically chosen in remembrance of the three activists Maribal sisters who were ordered to be killed by the Dominican Republic’s ruler in 1960. Their crime? Being female and being activists. The 25th of November also marks the beginning of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence where different organisations and individuals around the world join hands for 16 days to spread awareness of and help put an end to gender-based violence.
Generation Equality Against Rape
This year, United Nations Women has chosen the theme “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape”. The theme will run for two years. Rape is commonly described as an act of sexual intercourse with an individual without his or her consent through force or threat of force. Throughout the world, rape is known to be a very pervasive crime yet one of the most unreported. With grave social, mental and sometimes physical effects to the survivor, there is no doubt why UN Women has decided to focus on rape. It is one of the most heinous crimes of our time.
One rape per hour
In its first quarter’s report, Zimstat recorded that there were 636 reported rape cases in January and about 625 in February. The numbers follow similar patterns as the months go by. A breakdown of these figures shows that on average there were about 21.4 rape cases per day. This translates to roughly one reported rape per hour. The Zimbabwe Gender Commission revealed that at least twenty two (22) women are raped daily in Zimbabwe, one woman is abused every 75 minutes and an average of 646 women are being sexually-abused monthly and one in three girls is raped or sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18. Unfortunately, this is not the full story. These are just the reported cases. According to a United Nations survey done worldwide, up to 90% of women do not report rape. Overall, the United Nations claims that at least 1 in 3 women in the world has experienced sexual violence be it by an intimate partner, a stranger or a relative. Home is not a safe space for women anymore, let us seek to change that.
According to the Criminal Law Code of Zimbabwe, forced sexual intercourse or sexual intercourse with a minor is rape. Rape is not only a crime in domestic law in international law [the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Protocol on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa ( Maputo Protocol), the African Charter. Zimbabwe is a party of all the above-mentioned conventions and as such has committed itself to the protection of women, children and any other vulnerable groups against the crime of rape.
Call to End Rape
To call upon the government and not call upon men to work towards ending violence against women would be a half-hearted effort. Women themselves play an important role in society in the way they bring up their sons, and in their community and other leadership roles. It is the duty of all Zimbabweans, the government and all men and women to do more to ensure that violence against women is ended. People both young and old, rich or poor are encouraged to have conversations about ending violence against women. Influential institutions such as Churches are further called upon to encourage women to report violence and seek assistance from the various organisations in place that help women especially those who have been subjected to rape.
As the 16 days of activism Against Gender-Based Violence begins, let us remember to all play our parts. One rape is a rape too many. We encourage the Zimbabwe Republic Police to be humane towards women reporting rape and create an environment where reporting does not become a second trauma. We also call upon the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises to raise awareness on the rights of women through promoting the Domestic Violence Act in Zimbabwe and giving it teeth. Rape does not just affect one woman, it effects our whole society. Let us make the UN Women’s statement on this day a reality: “We are generation equality and we will end rape”.
Visit Veritas Women’s Rights website: www.veritaswomen.net
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