Saturday dialogue: Robbers targeting lone women

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There is a gang of criminals moving around low-density suburbs robbing mostly unaccompanied women.

Ropafadzo Mapimhidze

Last weekend, during the Easter break, one of my neighbours became a victim to these unscrupulous individuals as she was walking along Bishop Gaul Avenue, in broad daylight.

The two men pretended to be lost and were asking for directions. As they were talking to this woman, one of the thieves told her that her handbag was not properly secured. As she tried to secure it, one of the men pulled it off her left arm and they ran off in different directions.

The woman says she stood on the path parallel to Bishop Gaul Avenue not knowing what to do. She, however, proceeded to church where she was to attend an Easter service and broke the news to her pastor. So shaken was the woman that up until today she has nightmares about this incident.

She lost two expensive smart phones, a considerable amount of cash and purse that held all her bank cards, driver’s licence, national identity card and many other odd items.

As news spread in Tynwald North where the woman lives, there were many other stories that were also being told about other women that had fallen victim to such crimes.

One that was cited includes a Toyota Raum which stops to give women a ride into the central business district where the driver and the occupants demand that the passengers take out all the money from their purses and surrender it to them. The passengers are then dumped away from their initial route with absolutely no cash to catch a taxi to their intended destinations.

One woman also said that one of her relatives was robbed by someone driving a brand new Jeep in the same fashion.

This incident will hopefully send a strong message to women who tend not want to catch minibuses into town, preferring to hike in private cars.

There have been incidents where young women have been driven into secluded places, got raped and robbed of their valuables.

Travelling alone, especially in the hitchhiking fashion, introduces an individual to all kinds of people and creates risk of being a target.

There are predatory people around our communities that look for solitary individuals to attack, rob, or murder, although they may not be in the majority.

It is then imperative for women to plan ways of being safer, like for example choosing people they know to whom to accept rides from.

However, this may not always be the safest because we have heard of women that have been killed after getting rides from even neighbours after resisting sexual advances.

In Western countries, women are encouraged to carry pepper spray, which is made from an extract of chili peppers that usually comes in an aerosol canister that you can spray quickly and easily. Since it is portable and easy to use, pepper spray is a popular option for both law enforcement and personal use overseas.

When sprayed into the face of an attacker, it is extremely irritating to the skin, eyes, mouth, throat and lungs.

Its effect is immediate and powerful, and it can distract a person long enough for a victim to escape an assailant, or for a police officer to take control of a subject.

I personally have never come across this canister in Zimbabwe and I think it would be of great service to women if government could allow imports of such devices.

Women statistically have a greater chance of being injured or murdered by members of the opposite sex because they are generally the weaker gender, physically.

The pepper spray could easily prevent further abuse when used on a violent partner for example. For those women that are looking for any type of relationship while travelling, this of course could increase their chances of danger, but this is a choice she has control over.

I have heard of women that hitch hiked to South Africa and have never been heard from since. One woman, a commercial sex worker, said that she had two friends that hitch hiked to Mozambique about six years ago and nothing has also been heard from them since.

They obviously could have been murdered by the people that offered them a ride or they could have decided to split and hitch hike separately and hence met their fate.

The bottom line is that no woman in her normal senses should accept a ride from a stranger. I have personally only travelled singularly on a plane and never have I really opted to hitch hike if there is public transport available.

Zimbabweans are generally such a trusting people and never imagine such harm descending on them. Although I do not have statistics, Harare has definitely experienced a steady increase of women that have been mugged on the streets and it will get worse.

With the unemployment rate estimated at 85%, there is need for women and men alike to ensure that their homes and personal safety is number one priority. This is because criminals will do anything to get money and valuables from their victims.

It is therefore irresponsible and bad for anyone to travel alone without a safety plan in case of danger.

I also don’t think gender should be the issue here, as both males and females can behave equally irresponsible when alone on the road.

To criticise women who hitchhike alone is to victim-blame them if anything goes wrong — ie being attacked or raped by a male. What if we also criticise the men who perpetuate these attacks?

I believe that women should feel safe and free to do exactly as they please, and not let the risk of being attacked by a man stop them.
l Feedback: rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw

3 COMMENTS

  1. Another example of mediocre Zim journalism. No research whatsoever. What about the statistics and deeper analysis of the causes of the problem. The writer’s own opinions just thrown about in a shallow haphazard fashion. She couldn’t even research in a useful way the personal protection devices there are for women save to display her ignorance that she has never seen pepper spray in Zim yet it is available. If she’d cared enough a simple call to any one gun shop would have provided her with useful information. Even those hand held taser units are available in this country. She couldn’t even be bothered to look into what the legislation says about the use and importation of such devices. She could have gone into the practicalities and legalities of women and firearms for protective purposes. Instead she assumed in typical fashion that all readers were shallow like her and just sat down and chewed her pen and ratcheted up this disjointed piece of amateur writing that even Grade 6 kids can write. What a waste of time and sadly I can’t get that time back that I wasted reading this

  2. Another example of mediocre Zim journalism. No research whatsoever. What about the statistics and deeper analysis of the causes of the problem. The writer’s own opinions just thrown about in a shallow haphazard fashion. She couldn’t even research in a useful way the personal protection devices there are for women save to display her ignorance that she has never seen pepper spray in Zim yet it is available. If she’d cared enough a simple call to any one gun shop would have provided her with useful information. Even those hand held taser units are available in this country. She couldn’t even be bothered to look into what the legislation says about the use and importation of such devices. She could have gone into the practicalities and legalities of women and firearms for protective purposes. Instead she assumed in typical fashion that all readers are shallow. What a waste of time and sadly one can’t get back the time they wasted reading this amateur piece of writing that even Grade 6 children can write

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