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Women harassed in public places: study

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HARARE and other cities are said to be experiencing an upsurge of gender-based violence (GBV) targeted mainly at young women, which has resulted in them feeling unsafe in public spaces such as bus termini, public parks and public transport.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Plan International country director Tendai Musonza yesterday told Parliamentarians in Harare that the harassment of women and girls in public places had become rampant that in some cases it resulted in death of the victims or serious injuries.

Studies by Plan International on safety of public spaces actually show that of the sampled population, 40% of the respondents said they felt unsafe in the central business district (CBD), with the culprits being mainly touts, kombi drivers, and unemployed youths.

“In the past few weeks we have noted an upsurge of violence and fatal attacks in Harare targeting young women looking for transport, especially at night,” Musonza said.

“Plan International is concerned about the issue and we need to bring this to an end so that our women and girls are able to live in safety. This needs cooperation of stakeholders like the corporate sector, legislators, and others so that we build safe and inclusive cities for adolescent girls,” she said.

Researcher Nobesuthu Magutshini from Plan International said of the sampled population in Harare, 11% said they were not safe in their communities and CBD, 9% said they were not safe in buses and kombis, while 7% said they were not safe at bus termini such as Copacabana, Market Square, Mbare Musika and Simon Vengai Muzenda Street where they were harassed by touts.

“Sexual harassment was rated as a major form of GBV in public spaces (43%), and the major victims (34%) are young women aged 18 to 35 years, followed by girls aged 18 and below and young adult men that are under 18 years and below,” Magutshini said.

She said 32% of harassment in public places happened on the streets, and 21% of harassment happened in homes, with the perpetrators (52%) mainly being adult males aged 25 years and above.

Perpetual Nyakapiko, a lawyer for the Legal Resources Foundation said women and children were not safe in public transport where they are sexually harassed for their dressing

Nyakapiko said punishment provided for in legislation was not deterrent enough.

“The Criminal Law and Codification Reform Act section 41 and 45 prohibits disorder and intimidation in public spaces, but there are gaps that we need addressed. The Harare traffic laws must regulate the conduct of conductors and bus drivers to protect the passengers,” she said.

Zimbabwe National Council for Welfare of the Children national director Reverend Taylor Nyanhete said there was need for a discussion with transport operators and all stakeholders to end harassment of girls and women in public places.

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