SPEAKER of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda on Monday evening called on Parliament to craft punitive penalties for perpetrators of gender-based violence (GBV) as he officiated at a ceremony to officially launch the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Mudenda was also honoured for championing the He for She campaign against GBV during the Eighth Parliament, and was presented with a bouquet of orange roses by the Netherlands ambassador to Zimbabwe, Barbara van Hellemond, which she said would continuously be presented to gender champions during the 16 days of activism against GBV.
The event was graced by Women Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni, dignitaries from the Netherlands embassy, several other embassies, Harare mayor Herbert Gomba, the United Nations resident co-ordinator Bishow Parajuli and legislators.
“It is essential that we should review our laws so that stiffer penalties accompany those found on the wrong side in terms of practicing GBV, so that Parliament ensures that punitive action arises from such laws,” Mudenda said.
“We need to involve traditional leaders, village heads and headmen in this fight and women must ensure that they report cases of GBV before the courts,” he said.
Mudenda said during his practice as a lawyer, he had noted with concern that many female victims of GBV ended up withdrawing the cases after the matter was discussed at family level, resulting in the continued abuse of women.
He said poverty, lack of education forced women to stay in abusive relationships, hence the need to empower girls at a young age. Van Hellemond said a third of women worldwide are harassed and raped in crimes associated with GBV.
“GBV includes threats of violence or coercion, it can be physical or psychological and takes place because of power and inequality. The high prevalence of GBV says a lot about the protection mechanisms in place and the number of times we look away and find excuses, cultural and religious beliefs and poverty, which is used to justify violence against women,” Van Hellemond said.
She said in Zimbabwe what struck her most was the amount of abuse of female politicians, with some telling stories of physical and sexual harassment.
“We need to stop looking away and discuss the issue so that we take away the feelings of shame on the victims. Parliament should be a gender-sensitive place,” she said.
Zimbabwe Women’s Parliamentary Caucus vice-chair Sibusisiwe Bhuda Masara said GBV was a sign of weakness and not manliness, adding that physical violence on women and girls had left mental and physical scars on the victims.