Women, police complicit in rape

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This week I visited a friend I had not seen for nearly two decades. He had worked for many years at the local broadcasting authority, but has since become a political religious leader at one of the leading apostolic faith churches in Mutare and Mozambique.

We discussed many issues that ranged from personal matters to social and political issues. But we deliberated extensively on sexual violence.

A young woman suddenly emerged from the corridor as we were conversing. She greeted me and as she walked to one of the rooms near the lounge where we were sitting, my friend hinted that she was a sexual violence survivor.

She was raped in Marondera during the post-election era and no arrests have been made since the incident in 2008.

The young woman looked frail and her greeting sounded as though she had speech problems. I asked my friend what exactly happened. He explained that she was mentally-challenged and that had made life so difficult for her as she now could not recollect in detail what actually happened to her.

“This girl was so traumatised and needs serious counselling. We have not been able to get any help since that time and all we are doing is just pray and hoping she will get better.”

There are so many cases of this nature that have never been told and the sad reality is that perpetrators of these dehumanising acts are known.

Press reports this week revealed one woman is raped daily in Zimbabwe, a situation that requires greater intervention.

In South Africa, a female is raped every 26 seconds. This figure includes children.

This year a young woman committed suicide by plunging into a well after she had been raped by a “prophet” from an apostolic sect in Kadoma.

She had recorded her ordeal and suicide plans in a diary which was discovered during her funeral. The “prophet” had promised to marry her to avoid arrest. But the girl was to later discover that the man was married. She decided to take her life by plunging into a well.

A diary found in her room revealed the rape incident and the planned suicide.

But the most intriguing aspect of rape cases is that women too are complicit in sexual violence. If a mother protects her son who has been accused of sexual violence, doesn’t that make the mother a perpetrator of violence as well?

Years ago, a young woman failed to report her own brother who had raped her daughter. She argued a police report would just destroy her family because her mother had threatened to abandon her if she did.

She then decided to leave for England where the child received counselling and treatment. She has not been back to Zimbabwe for 15 years now. But hardly five years following her departure, her brother jailed to three years for defiling a little girl from his neighbourhood.

Research shows that by the time a rapist is arrested, that individual would have ravaged scores and scores of women and children.

In yet another incident, a Harare domestic worker was raped by her male employer. She immediately made a report. When the wife returned home from the village and heard the story, she went ballistic and threatened the young domestic worker.

She was forced to withdraw the matter and she continues working for the family to avoid interaction with other people.

A rights activist in Greendale said: “If you are protecting your uncle, son, husband, nephew and your own father, you become part of that rape. There is lack of care and respect about these matters in our communities.”

Women too are perpetrators of violence as witnessed during the post-2008 election period. They were also part of the mobs that instigated violence in Manicaland Province where survivors fled their villages and sought refuge in Mutare.

I personally met and spoke with some of these women who expressed disappointment about the involvement of women in political violence.

They even wrote names of the male and female perpetrators who have not been arrested to this date. The youngest survivor was a 15-year-old girl who said she had lost count of the men that had raped her at a base in their village.

These victims tried filing their cases at local police stations, but they were turned away. Police told them they could not open dockets for the rapists.

A report by Aids Free World notes that human rights organisations protested the failings of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

The report goes on to say: “The police have not done anything to intervene in such situations. In July 2009, Amnesty International called for an impartial and independent police oversight body in the country, stating: ‘We do not trust that police are capable of investigating themselves . . . The ZRP has been instrumental in silencing government critics since 2000 and continues to do so with total impunity’.”

The general attitude by law enforcers toward rape is pathetic. The cases drag for a very long time and that results in loss of vital information expected from the complainant.

This is unfortunately what has happened to the Sunningdale case I mentioned earlier. The woman’s uncle says she has since started giving conflicting dates.

Rape destroys women’s well being, reproductive abilities, families, lives and happiness. Rape also places these women at risk of contracting HIV that causes Aids.

The report said that a 23-year-old woman from Masvingo was told by her rapist: “We have hurt you. So go get tested because we have given you the prize for what you were doing.”

Her crime was her involvement in opposition politics.

Feedback: rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw