By Panashe Chikonyora
Gender based violence (GBV), is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, and continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations within all societies around the world. In many countries, gender based violence continues to greatly undermine girls and women’s opportunities, Zimbabwe included notwithstanding the great strides to eradicate the prevalence of gender based violence.
Although both women and men experience gender-based violence, the majority of victims are women and girls. Zimbabwe among many other countries has been witnessing a phenomenal surge in gender based violence cases, with child marriages and domestic abuse accounting for 90 percent of gender based violence reported cases in the country.
Recent figures from the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) indicate that Mashonaland East is leading in the gender based violence cases in the country for the period January to September 2021. According to ZPCS 445 male and 11 female inmates from Mashonaland East were incarcerated for perpetrating gender based violence.
Hwedza is an example of one of the districts in Mashonaland East where gender based violence cases have been rising. Presenting at a community interface meeting with Wedza Residents Development Initiative Trust (WERDIT) in December last year, Women Affairs Ministry department representative Luckson Magebuza said:
“Hwedza is showing a disturbing trend in terms of gender based violence. Statistics from Hwedza police station indicated that from January to September 2021, Hwedza recorded 78 cases of gender based violence, 20 cases were of rape, 27 of domestic violence including other cases such as sexual intercourse with a minor and attempted rape. 31 women and girls were referred and housed at Msasa safe shelter in Kwakuenda – a place where we shelter most of our needy gender based violence survivors while they await their cases to be solved,”
He added that the figures could be more if they increase the scope of their research to include other sources
“We need more statistics from other sources that deal with gender based violence in Hwedza such as village headmen so that our research is not limited. The cases could be more than 78 considering that there are also those gender based violence victims who do not report.
Some of the gender based violence hot spot areas include rural district wards such as 6 and 7 in Gumbonzvanda and Demenyore in Hwedza.
An example of a gender based violence case in Hwedza was that of Agnes Tapatsiwa – a mother to a child living with a disability who encountered difficulties after being rejected by her husband’s family for giving birth to her child.
Agnes’ husband who is a psychiatric patient could not protect her from his brother’s wrath. She said she had to endure the pain of moving countless times from one abandoned homestead to the other with her four children.
“When I gave birth to my fourth child my husband’s family did not accept my child and because my husband is a psychiatric patient my brother in law chased me away from the house that my late mother in law had left me. So l had to look for another place to stay an abandoned homestead with my four children. I lived there for two years before I took my brother in law to court and got a peace order, however he denied ever chasing me away from home and also took a protection order against me. I had to move out again.
I later took the case at court in Marondera and I won the house, but when we returned to the village my brother in law again took the matter to the village head and I believe that he bribed the police because they supported him, he even wanted me banished from Hwedza. However, I am still living there despite the torment because that is my children’s home,” narrated Agnes.
However, the interface meeting saw WERDIT and both state and non-state members agreeing on improving Wedza District’s services towards gender based violence victims by urging the provision of one stop shops to protect gender based violence victims.
Zimbabwe recently took part in the 16 days of activism against gender based violence from 25 November to 10 December under the theme. ‘End Violence Against Women and Girls Now: No To Child Marriage!!!’ Such efforts are a positive step in emancipating women who play a critical role in sustainable socio- economic development.