MUTARE– Statistics show that at least one women is abused every seventy five minutes in Zimbabwe, in an alarming upsurge of gender based violence which authorities say is toxic to sustainable development.
The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) said this spike in violence has been recorded in the past six years, increasing by an astronomical 42% percent, a situation further exacerbated during the COVID 19 lockdown period.
In remarks during a Provincial Gender Forum, Gender Commission chairperson, Commissioner Margret Makuhanana-Sangarwe, in a speech read on her behalf by Commissioner Dr Nyepudzai Nyangulu, she said domestic violence is the most common form of GBV.
Other forms of GBV include intimate partner violence, sexual violence, rape, sexual harassment, human trafficking, violence in public spaces, so called child marriage and cyber bullying.
Commissioner Makuhanana-Sangarwe said at the global level 35% of women have experienced either form of sexual violence in their lifetime while 38% of women deaths are reportedly committed by intimate partner.
“Domestic violence is the most prevalent form of GBV in Zimbabwe with 18 021 cases in 2019, and over 20 000 cases recorded in each year from 2017 to 2018 (ZIMSTAT, 2020).
“Among females aged 15 – 49 years, 11.6% had experienced sexual violence in their lives. Data compiled by ZIMSTAT in 2016 revealed a 42 percent increase in rape cases over the past six years, which works out to at least 21 women raped daily or one woman sexually abused every 75 minutes,” she said.
Further confirming the prevalence of GBV, is the 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) report which shows that 39.4% of adolescent girls and women age 15-49 have experienced physical violence since age 15.
Makuhanana-Sangarwe said what was worrying was the trend of intimate partner violence which reared its ugly head, in the secrecy of the Covid 19 induced lockdown, further acerbating the prevalence of GBV in society.
She said worryingly, statistics within the period of the lockdown as recorded by government indicate that here was an exponential increase of at least 500% in the same period as compared to 2019 and 2018.
“Reports suggest a significant increase of GBV cases related to COVID 19 especially intimate partner violence.
“One Stop Centres established by Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and SME’s Development recorded over 6 730 in 2020 compared to 1771 in 2019 and 1417 in 2018 during the same period of April to July,” she said.
Minister of State for Manicaland, Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba applauded government for setting up a commission responsible for gender as a proactive stance to reduce the incidence of GBV.
She said despite these valiant efforts it was disheartening to note that women continue to suffer the brunt of violence meted out by their male counterparts, which often goes without being reported.
“The unequal status of women and girls compared to their male counterparts in their families and communities has strongly reduced women’s autonomy, their ability to exercise their rights or ability to leave abusive situations.
“There is need to remove and speak out against cultural norms and demystify notions of acceptance to violence as a normal way of social interaction,” said Dr Gwaradzimba.
The Provincial Gender Forum was set up to identify structural and underlying cause of GBV, strengthen mechanisms for monitoring and implementation of legal and policy frameworks for GBV. It ran under the theme ‘Strengthening accountability to end gender based violence in Zimbabwe.’