HARARE – Women are contributing to the increase of gender-based violence (GBV) as they are accomplices in concealing such cases and offences, rights activist Nyaradzo Mashayamombe said.
In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday, Mashayamombe — a women and girl rights advocate — said women don’t report GBV crimes to protect families’ reputation and for fear of losing their husbands who would be providing financial security.
In doing so, she said, “perpetrators are protected”.
“While abuse is perpetrated by mostly men on women and girls, some women are also part of the problem as they protect perpetrators who are often their husbands, sons, uncles or lovers.
“The women who go through GBV often find it hard to either report the violence or to come out of violent situations due to the fact that sometimes they can’t afford to leave the bread winner or the comfort that they are used to,” she added.
“Most times, they experience aggression, persecution and victimisation from those around the abusers in a manner to protect and give impunity to the abuser while becoming accomplices to the GBV. The person who is going through GBV must liberate themselves by knowing that GBV is unacceptable and anyone who causes it or defends abusers makes it clear that they do not find their life worthy of defending,” Mashayamombe said.
The Tag a Life International director said survivors of GBV must quickly leave abusive environments and seek help to avoid the cycle of abuse.
In relation to that, Medecins san Frontieres (MSF) medical coordinator Daniela Garone said sexual violence is a global challenge and in Zimbabwe, 27 percent of women aged between 15 and 49 years have reported that they have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.
She said global research has also suggested that one in six men experiences sexual abuse before the age of 18.
Garone said due to the stigma surrounding sexual violence and low levels of awareness on benefits of getting emergency care, only 20 percent of Zimbabwean women seek help.
The medical coordinator said for men it is even worse as they are deterred by the negative attitudes from health workers.
“The mental and physical consequences of sexual violence, including rape, are severe and sometimes life threatening. They can include physical injury, infection with HIV or other STIs, unwanted pregnancy, and major depressive disorders.
“Without emergency treatment and preventive care within 72 hours, the consequences can be far worse, lasting long into the survivor’s life.”
“Since opening the Edith Opperman clinic in Mbare in 2011, over 7 400 cases of sexual violence have been treated, of which 68 percent were adolescents below the age of 15 years.
“In 84 percent of the cases, the perpetrator was known by the child or the family. Yet, despite major efforts to raise awareness about the services, only 43 percent of survivors sought care within 72 hours.”
“In spite of high levels of violence, MSF continues to see low levels of reporting on sexual violence among both men and women due to fear of being stigmatised, negative attitudes of health care workers, limited knowledge of consequences and fear of divorce among others.
“Lack of information and stigma plays a key role in preventing people from reporting sexual violence and seeking care,” Garone said.
A report by ActionAid ranked Zimbabwe fifth of 10 countries with the safest cities for women and girls.
The Safe Cities report also showed that 44 percent of women did nothing in response to violence while only 3,9 percent made police reports.
“In Zimbabwe 35,7 percent of the women and girls reported to have experienced sexual harassment in their life time. Forty four percent of the female respondents did nothing when harassed, 35,7 percent of women and girls interviewed expressed that they did not feel safe at market places,” the report said.
ActionAid said the fear of reporting and risks of reporting, due to stigma and a “blame culture”, resulted in lack of justice for victims of violence.