Zimbabweans today join the rest of the world in commemorating 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, spotlighting all forms of violence against women and girls.
The campaign runs until the 10th of December under the theme; “End Violence against Women and Girls Now; No to Child Marriages.”
Addressing journalists in Harare, Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Jennifer Mhlanga said the main objective of the campaign is to amplify voices against different forms of GBV and to raise awareness on gender-based violence as a human rights issue.
Deputy Minister Mhlanga said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and disparities thus there has been an increase in reported cases of gender-based violence around the world and Zimbabwe have not been spared.
“The ZRP Victim Friendly Unit 4 153 Domestic Violence cases recorded between April to June this year. In the same period 1 289 rape cases were recorded and of these, 45 cases were perpetrated on people with disabilities for the disabled. The vulnerabilities faced by women, and girls living with disability can never be emphasised. It is like a double edged sword to the heart. One Stop Centres around administered by the Ministry recorded a total of 349 physical violence cases, 413 psychological violence, 874 sexual violence and 502 reported economic abuse.
“These were at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but even before the crisis, Zimbabwe Republic Police statistics painted a grim picture of the prevalence of violence against women and girls in the country emerging data and reports from actors on the front line indicate that GBV is on the rise particularly child marriages” she said.
She announced that a number of events have been scheduled as part of this year’s commemorations.
“This year’s commemorations will be embedded with the National Launch event being the Launch of the Epworth Safe Market as well as the Epworth One Stop Centre for survivors of Gender Based Violence, tomorrow the 25th of November.”
Acting UN Resident Coordinator Dr Alex Gasasira commended both Government and the UN for embracing the goal to mitigate violence against women
“Despite the challenges, it is also important to acknowledge successes. We take heart in the recent initiative by Government of Zimbabwe, the European Union Delegation and the United Nations in launching the High-Level Political Compact (HLPC) on Ending Gender-based Violence and Harmful Practices in Zimbabwe. This important milestone was achieved in late October through the Spotlight Initiative,” he said.
Several people lamented the COVID-19 pandemic saying it is the major contributor to the increase of GBV.
Sharon Fraser said gender-based violence increased especially during the COVID 19 lockdown, pre-existing toxic social norms and gender inequalities, economic and social stress caused by the COVID 19 pandemic.
Silent Mapuranga also said the restriction of movement and social isolation measures, have led to an increase in GBV.
Many women are in lockdown at home with their abusers while being cut off from normal support services.