By Nthokozo Gudu
Kana riri domba, idomba rudzii varume, kana iri nzara, inzara rudzii…ndezviudza aniko, ndotaurira aniko, rega ndirambe ndinyerere, zvandityisa. (What kind of a desire is this, who should I tell this to, let me keep quite; this is too scary.)
These lines are extracted from the late Oliver Mtukudzi’s song Tapindwa nei (what has gotten into us) taken off one of his greatest ever albums Tuku Music released in 1999.
The album has a number of prodigious sing along songs which are pregnant with meaning like Dzoka uyamwe, Mabasa, Rirongere, Mai varamba, Todii and wake up.
The release of this game-changing album recorded in South Africa in 1998 and presided over by the then new producer Steve Dyer and new manager Debbie Metcalfe propelled Tuku as he was affectionately known by his legion of fans to global stardom.
In the song Tapindwa nei? Mtukudzi bemoans the decadence that has ravaged the moral fabric of our society.
He questions why the young, innocent and vulnerable children in society are falling prey to salacious old men who find sexual pleasure in raping them.
The level of sexual pervasiveness behind such an insatiable appetite for sex boggles his mind and therefore calls for an end to such vices.
In the words of academics Munyaradzi Nyakudya and Bridget Chinouriri: “Music has enormous capacity for social transformation and Mtukudzi recognised and appreciated this reality and strove to uphold the rights of various marginalized groups.”
It is heartrending that while a plethora of musicians have gone out of their way to speak out against the sexual abuse of young girls, the vice continues unabated in our society.
Recently, Women’s Affairs Minister Sithembiso Nyoni said at least 220 Zimbabwean minors were raped between January and September 2022.
The abuse of women, which is prevalent in our patriarchal society has seen 22 women being raped every day and 646 being sexually abused monthly according to statistics presented by Senate president Mabel Chinomona.
To add to these baffling statistics, recently, a 37-year-old man raped and impregnated his 15-year-old nephew in Glen Norah.
While the abuse of young girls has been in the public domain for a very long time and its statistics spiking by the day, it begs the question, what is society doing to ensure that this problem is nipped in the bud.
In a recent press briefing held in Harare, minister Nyoni “…called upon all Zimbabweans to rise up and stop this cancer that is destroying the girl child…”
While it is commendable that the responsible minister has spoken out about the problem, questions will always be raised regarding the effectiveness of such statements.
Is making pronouncements enough of it should be backed by action.
Analysts have argued that the political will on the part of government to deal with these issues is sometimes lacking.
Section 9 of the Zimbabwean Constitution provides that the State should adopt policies and measures to ensure that children are protected from maltreatment, neglect, or any form of abuse.
This should not be an abstract thing but should be seen to be done.
Child marriages and sexual abuse of young girls by senior members of some Apostolic sects is rampant but rarely reported unless the issue fortunately leaks which has led some analysts to conclude that perpetrators are protected because of the political importance of their churches to the ruling elite.
The church should also take part in combating abuse in society through conscientising and preaching on issues surrounding the matter.
Churches should create victim friendly environments such that victims are given opportunities to speak out against abuses perpetrated against them.
Children’s Pastor in the ZAOGA Forward in Faith church Jestina Gandawa said fathers have to exhibit exemplary behaviour.
“In the Bible, a father is compared to God the father who protects and provides for us. fathers should therefore protect their own from abuse the same way God shields us,” said Gandawa.
Stiffer penalties against violators can also be a panacea to the widespread problem of abuse against girls and women.
The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) chief executive officer Virginia Muwanigwa said: “Following media reports of two 9 year olds pregnant girls, one of whom has already given birth, ZGC unequivocally adds its voice to those calling for harsher punishment for those convicted of raping the children.
“In this regard, the commission recommends prosecution of the alleged perpetrators who raped the 9 year olds whose evidence lies in their falling pregnant and becoming mothers at such a tender age. The physical, psychological, social, economic impact and lifetime harm arising from these crimes require unambiguous justice delivery processes,” said Muwanigwa.
The media also has a pivotal role in the fight against abuse.
Analyst Admire Mare said the media has a critical role in sensiting citizens on their reproductive and sexual rights.
“It should inform society on what is permissible or not according to the 2013 Zimbabwean Constitution. The recent spates of sexual violations and child pregnancies highlight the unequal power relations between men and young girls in our society,” said Mare.
“A lot needs to be done to address regressive cultural practices The law needs to deal with perpetrators harshly. Schools, media and communities should educate young girls on their rights and responsibilities,” he said.
Harmful cultural practices should be interrogated and exposed for the benefit of girls and women.
Analysts Lazarus Sauti said some abuse girls in pursuit of earthly riches. They are told that of they sleep with their daughters, they will get rich quickly.
“Additionally, men are now raping their daughters to quench their sequel urge. The solution lies with everyone. We need to protect our children, we have to rethink about ‘wako mwana haasi wako wega, wako mwana ndewenzinza’ axiom. Let’s report abuse, perpetrators must be jailed and heavily punished. We cannot be a society that turns against its daughters,” said Sauti.