When the Domestic Violence Act came into law in 2007, it was regarded as one of the most progressive laws for the advancement of women in Zimbabwe.
However, it was very sad and disappointing to note that women still continue to be subjected to abuse by their partners and yet this law is designed to protect from all forms of abuse.
Implementation of the Domestic Violence Act still remains a major problem as patriarchal attitudes continue to hinder protection of women living in violent situations.
The month of May will no doubt be remembered as one of the worst this year as far as domestic violence is concerned.
Last week, a prosecutor allegedly beat his wife and placed a hot iron on her buttocks, raped her six times and then shoved hot spices into her reproductive organ.
While his wife was writhing in pain from the burns, Wallen Chiwawa allegedly raped her six times throughout the night.
Chiwawa allegedly threatened his wife with unspecified action bragging he was untouchable, being a lawyer in the Attorney General’s Office.
The following day, Chiwawa allegedly seized his wife’s cellphone and the keys to their Kadoma house before accompanying her to the city centre at around 3pm and dumping her.
He is currently on $100 bail.
On Tuesday this week, a senior government official, Gorden Tsuro, allegedly axed his wife Rosemary Charlie and left her for dead following a dispute over a property which is registered in the wife’s name.
And, apparently without any remorse, the husband, Tsuro, a senior provincial marriage registrar, reported for work the following day and was, by Thursday, still walking free.
Tsuro allegedly boasted in front of media crews at his house that he was immune to prosecution as he was connected to senior police officers.
Charlie, who suffered severe multiple fractures, is in the meantime battling for her life at Chitungwiza General Hospital.
Law enforcement agents generally still regard domestic violence as a private, trivial matter that should not be dealt with at police stations.
But there are so many incidents of women who have sought help at police stations who were then murdered by their spouses because no one really took their reports as serious matters.
One glaring example is that of Charity Mukarati Sabau who was shot and killed by her husband at Globetrotter Motel in Good Hope, Harare in 2008.
The late Charity had 12 protection orders which had been granted to her by the court but her husband, Harare businessman Dickson Kokwani Sabau (66), who has since been jailed for 16 years for this murder, violated these orders and there was no action from the police.
Charity and her husband had a long-standing dispute over property sharing in which Charity would have benefited a meagre 20%. But she was killed for challenging her abusive spouse who did not want her to get a share of that property.
The ideal situation would have been for Sabau to move off the premises, but it would seem courts also do not have the power to oust an abusive spouse from a matrimonial home.
It is this loophole that has resulted in so many spousal murders because most women generally do not have anywhere to seek shelter until their matrimonial disputes have been solved.
Divorce matters in Zimbabwe are a very costly affair with lawyers asking not less than $1 000 deposits before they can start processing these matters. But how many can afford these fees?
These are some of the reasons why spouses continue to endure violent marriages which unfortunately end tragically as happened to the women mentioned above.
Law enforcement agents frequently decline to listen to complainants, investigate their cases and ensure that survivors of violence are referred to legal resource centres at their disposal.
An official with Musasa Project, a local non-governmental organisation that deals with rape and domestic violence, said women are being killed for claiming rights over property.
“Women were historically regarded as minors hence any property acquired in the marriage, with their assent, was supposed to be registered in the husband’s name.
“This is happening despite law reforms that have ensured that women claim their rights in marriage and this has unfortunately ended up with some spouses losing their lives.”
Another incident cited was that of a woman who inherited her parents’ home in Mutare but had to register the house in the husband’s name following a series of violent clashes in their rented accommodation in Zvishavane.
“The man collects the rent and squanders the money with other women. His argument is why did her parents give her the house and not him.
“Unfortunately, the wife gave in and chances are he may one day sell the house and leave his wife destitute,” said a relative of this woman.
Women are protected by law as equal citizens hence the police have the obligation to respect women’s rights.
This dereliction of duty is in breach of their professional and legal obligation. Sending women back to their violent homes to settle disputes is serious neglect of duty.