By Panashe Makufa
Women pressure groups in Zimbabwe have joined the rest of the world in commemorating the annual 16 days of Activism Against Violence against Women and Girls by calling on the government to impose stiffer penalties for perpetrators of Gender-Based ViolenceThis year’s theme is “Enhancing the Inclusion of Youths in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence”.
Speaking at the commemorations in Harare Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre Network (ZWRCN) executive director Dorothy Hove called for the government to put stiffer penalties on perpetrators of violence against women and girls.
“When you look into what is happening, 9-year-olds getting pregnant it means there is a breakdown in the system, so we are appealing to stakeholders more importantly the justice system to look into putting stiffer penalties for perpetrators of violence against women and girls,” she added.
Zimbabwe has recorded an increase in cases of abuse that involve women and girls, especially after the advent of COVID-19 when the perpetrators were spending more time with their victims.
Gender and Communications Specialist with Spaces Zimbabwe Audrey Charamba said this pandemic can only be fought “through having relevant conversations, engaging appropriate people, and participating in spaces that contribute to awareness,”
“Given the serious rise in gender-based violence around the world, this year’s event is more important than ever,” she said
Agnes Magunje of Action Aid commended the government’s efforts in helping victims of abuse through Police’s Victim friendly units countrywide and feels that much can be done to fully assist victims even outside of working hours.
“We are very happy that there is a Victim Friendly Unit that deals with these issues, it gives some level of comfort but there is more that can be done to it because the times it operates 8am-4pm from Monday to Fridays yet these cases happen anytime even on weekends,” said Magunje
Violence against women remains devastatingly pervasive and starts alarmingly young, showing new data from WHO and partners. Across their lifetime, 1 in 3 women, around 736 million, are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner
An estimated 37% of women living in the poorest countries have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their life, with some of these countries having a prevalence as high as 1 in 2.
The regions of Oceania, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest prevalence rates of intimate partner violence among women aged 15-49, ranging from 33% – 51%. The lowest rates are found in Europe (16–23%), Central Asia (18%), Eastern Asia (20%) and South-Eastern Asia (21%)
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. Each year, the 16 Days starts on November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and girls runs to 10 December.