‘Violence against women, girls escalates’

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ESCALATING cases of violence against women and girls in public and private spaces has sparked outrage from women’s organisations and civic society groups that are calling for tough measures to be put in place to protect and empower them.

This comes as the world celebrated International Women’s Day on Sunday under the ‘Each for equal’ theme where women across the globe were celebrating social, economic, cultural and political achievements.

Speaking during a Mukadzi haashungurudzwe campaign in Chitungwiza recently, Women Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni said it was sad that Zimbabwe continued to have rising cases of gender-based violence.

“My ministry and the government at large are very concerned with the prevalence of violence against women and girls that happen in the public and private sphere.

“This violence has compounded women’s subordinates’ role and has hindered efforts by the government to reach the 50 percent benchmark in decision-making positions,” Nyoni said.

“For us to achieve the emancipation of women there is need for men to respect the dignity of women.”
Perch Media Trust director Collen Magobeya, who organised the campaign, said the idea was to engage men and boys as advocates and agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights as well as their protection.

“The event is to provide a bridge and platform for society where men and women discuss freely and work together to end gender-based violence,” he said.

Community Water Alliance (CWA) bemoaned rampant abuse of women in urban areas due to water shortages and called upon all stakeholders, including the Women Affairs ministry, to embark on a serious sensitisation programme that aims to change mind-sets of masculinity tendencies dominating access to water at public boreholes.

“While the alliance commemorates International Women’s Day, it is sad that the water sector has been a theatre for gender-based violence in the years 2019 and 2020,” CWA said.

“Women have been raped on their way to public boreholes in Mabvuku, some physically attacked as they wake up early to queue for water in Hatcliffe, while physical violence perpetrated by water barons has been rampant in Chitungwiza.

“Sextortion has been the order of the day at public boreholes, with majority of water point committees being major perpetrators of abuse.”

Meanwhile, Women’s Comfort Corner Foundation (WCCF) director Rita Mbatha said empowerment of women, whether socially or economically, was currently a joke in Zimbabwe.

“Women get sexually harassed in the workplace and shockingly the new labour court rules have unilaterally removed the provisions of the rules which protected the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace and no reasons were proffered for such a drastic and unilateral decision,” Mbatha fumed.

“Young girls are abused with impunity, especially teenage children in the rural areas and at university, resulting in a high number of girls living with HIV/Aids, and further, most women are shamed on the internet when their nude pictures are splashed all over simply because the relationship has broken down.

“We hear allegations of alleged arrests for such conduct, but nothing comes out of the arrests which means that the sentences or fines are extremely lenient.”

On the other hand, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd) said the worsening economic and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe has seen women become victims of sex work, trafficking and sexual assaults, which require specific protection and recourse.

“Gender disparities still exist in Zimbabwe with new forms of discrimination on the basis of women’s age, religion, health status, marital status, education, disability and socioeconomic status, among other grounds,” Zimcodd said.

“This is exacerbated by the societal ascribed gender roles that require women to fend for their families through paid and unpaid care work.”

Zimcodd added that the government must create a safe environment for women to equally participate in both economic and political processes, and create a conducive and resistance free environment where women can participate without fear of intimidation and fear of societal gender stereotypes.

Despite the aforementioned challenges, women activists believe the International Women’s Day provides an opportunity for women to individually and collectively reflect and confront the challenges that limit their full emancipation.

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