IN Zimbabwe, violence against women and girls has been widely discussed, but sadly the statistics of rape cases are shocking.
According to records by Msasa Project,
a group that provides counselling and temporary shelter to women survivors of domestic violence, on average 300 cases of violence against women are recorded monthly.
BY KENNEDY NYAVAYA
Msasa Project director Netty Musanhu said 25% of women and girls in Zimbabwe experienced gender-based violence. She said relatives, neighbours and trusted people like pastors and teachers were the main perpetrators.
Former Women’s Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri said during the months from June to October last year, 4 379 cases of rape were reported, of which 3 046 were committed by juveniles. She, however, said many cases went unreported.
German non-governmental organisation Konrad Adenauer Foundation recently released a report on gender behaviour in modern society at a workshop in Harare.
They documented heart-wrecking stories of girls that had been raped and how it affected their lives.
“He forced me to lie down and I fell. He was holding a knife and told me that he was going to kill me if I resisted,” one victim was recorded saying.
“I was so scared. I tried to scream, but he put sand into my mouth. He then used the knife to cut my pants and removed them. He raped me for five minutes while holding my neck and threatening to kill me if I told anybody. It was painful, very painful, as he was doing it,” read part of the story written in a Zimbabwean teenage girl’s diary.
The perpetrator was said to have afterwards fled the country, evading the repercussions of the crime he had committed and leaving the traumatised school-going child infected with a sexually transmitted infection.
These appalling local trends are evidence that barely two days pass without reports of abuse, most of it sexual, despite having stern laws against such heinous conduct. This only refers to reported cases yet most of them do not even get to the relevant authorities that can curb repeat of the gruesome activities.
Ironically, there has been a considerable rise in awareness campaigns necessitated by many organisations and it is lucidly engraved in the supreme law of the land yet our country’s “girl child” still suffers.
Is it a case of failure in law enforcement or is society still stuck in the nostalgic feeling of male hegemony?
The blame game has taken centre stage whenever the issue is brought to the table with the abuser blaming the victim or vice-versa, but an individual cannot solely point at one mistake or another and completely attribute the causes of the insanity.
The workshop was attended by 30 young men from across various areas of influence with the main agenda of the day addressing the disturbing rise in violence against women and girls.
Issues raised by the young men and the facilitators largely pointed at culture, religion and relaxed law enforcement, among other things as the loopholes promoting rape.
While culture has been in the past described as dynamic, the bulk of perpetrators still view it as defence for infringing on the rights of women.
Life coach and counsellor Justice Marwisa said there was need to revise cultural norms that encouraged abuse of women and girls.
“It is true that culture is dynamic. However, the fact is that people sometimes retain certain aspects of their culture that they use knowingly or otherwise to abuse others.
“There are other cases where people are unknowingly influenced by engraved traditional practices in which women are, for example, considered subservient to men,” he said as he urged men to desist from using culture as defence for evil and rape.
“The fact that males are custodians of the law adds more to the abuse on women and girls in modern Zimbabwe.
“It does not require a rocket scientist to note that men are not taking drastic measures to curtail this heinous sin because they are the ones who will be nailed by such measures.”
Harare West MP Jessie Majome pointed out that she had moved a motion in Parliament calling for 30 years mandatory imprisonment for rapists.
“I have a motion currently in Parliament, which is calling for 30 years as the lowest sentence a rapist should get, but there is still need for ministers and other stakeholders to endorse it,” she said.
“While all this is happening, men and boys should desist from using violent sexual language as it encourages violence against females.
“The media ought to be sensitive to necessitate zero tolerance of rape and violence against women,” she urged.
World trends also prove that a lot still has to be done to achieve a safe environment for women with England and Wales reportedly recording 85 000 women rape cases every year, while in Denmark one in five women has experienced a sexual assault.
In India’s a 1,2 billion population, rape occurs every 20 minutes.