International Day for the Elimination of
Violence Against Women
25 November 2022
End Sexual Violence Against Girls Now!
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is commemorated every year in at least 187 countries worldwide. The day was established on the international calendar of events by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. It marks the beginning of the Sixteen days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign which ends 16 days later on Human Rights Day on 10 December.
All sex with girls is rape
Violence against women is defined as any act of gender-based violence that causes physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women. It includes cultural practices and attitudes that are harmful to women and girls such as forced virginity testing, kugara nhaka and similar practices
There was a 60% increase in the numbers of reported Gender Based Violence cases during the COVID-19 prescribed lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. The published statistics show that violence against women is always on the increase despite the various awareness campaigns and legislation to counter it.
This year to commemorate the day to end violence against women and the sixteen days against GBV campaign Veritas is focusing a spotlight on sexual violence against girls. The World Health Organisation declared violence against children a world health emergency in 2002. One billion children globally experience some form of physical, sexual or emotional violence every year. Sexual violence and physical violence are the chief violations against children and girls in particular.
Sexual violence against girls is on an upward move. In the past year alone many cases of sexual violence against children were reported and some grabbed the public’s attention and generated a lot of anger and outcry. Media coverage helps to throw light on the extent and depth of the problem. The cases that do make it to the media and public information spaces are just a fraction of the cases that happen in real life. The majority of cases of sexual violence against girls are never reported to anyone at all. Sexually-abused girls grow up and live and die with their secrets. One of the cases that caused a massive media outcry was of Memory Machaya a 14 year old girl who died during child birth at a religious shrine. Another case that caught the public eye was a 9 year old girl from Tsholotsho who was raped and gave birth this month. Her father is a suspect and is in police custody. The most recent case is of yet another pregnant 9 year old girl from Bindura. Two 17 year old boys were arrested in connection with the rape.
Statistics in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s first Violence Against Children Survey was completed in 2012 and republished in 2019. Children’s Rights Activist group Together For Girls reported that 9% of girls in Zimbabwe experienced sexual violence in childhood compared to 1% of boys. Of the girls who had their first sexual experience before they turned 18 nearly 17% of them were forced into it. 39% of girls did not report the sexual abuse and violence perpetrated against them. According to a separate Ministry of Health and Child Care study 5% of girls experience pressured or forced sex at some time in their lives. 17% of girls experienced physical violence in childhood compared to 23% of boys. The disparity between the incidence of sexual violence between girls and boys shows that timeworn stereotypes persist that girls are sex objects.
The results of a qualitative survey in the Mashonaland provinces found that child survivors of sexual violence are vulnerable to blame, shame and stigma. Sexual abuse against girls is rampant because of power and gender imbalances within families and communities. Gender norms and culture inspired biases all conspire to encourage violence against girls. Cultural taboos which are placed around sex ensure that sex and sexual matters are rarely talked about. These taboos promote cultures of silence around violent and sexual abuse of girls. Other challenges that impede the proper handling of cases of violence against children include insufficient resources, policy inconsistencies, lack of guidelines and training for policy makers and service providers. Lack of prioritisation of child sexual abuse by political leaders and legislators also exacerbate the problem and encourage the silence.
Remedies -The Domestic Violence Act
Legislation to tackle violence against girls includes the Criminal Codification and Reform Act and the Domestic Violence Act which was enacted in 2007. The Domestic Violence Act was enacted in response to the rise in domestic violence and violence against women. Despite the dismal statistics Zimbabwe has taken many strides in dealing with violence against girls and women. Various public campaigns over the years have helped raise the level of public awareness and that in itself is a positive move towards ending or at least lessening violence against girls. The Domestic Violence Act is the most effective law ever instituted in Zimbabwe to counter gender based violence. It has been hailed as one of the most progressive laws for the protection of women against violence in Zimbabwe.
If fully and properly implemented and used the Domestic Violence Act has the potential to markedly discourage violence against women and girls. It has many resources victims can exploit such as obtaining protection orders. It mandates the Police who handle GBV cases to be trained in that area. It establishes the Domestic Violence Council which oversees national issues to do with GBV such as legislation, support services, legal aid and protection of victims. One of the most positive aspects of the Act is that it allows third party reporting of GBV crimes. People other than the victim can file criminal charges on behalf of the victim with or without the victim’s permission.
Blue Fridays Campaign
This year during the Sixteen Days Campaign to End Violence Against Women we double our efforts to amplify our voices to raise awareness to eliminate violence against girls. Every Friday during the campaign we at Veritas will be wearing the colour blue to support the campaign. Please join us – for more information please see Veritas Women website [link] and social media
We will be distributing free informative material about the legal remedies and penalties for gender based violence. We will also be donating and planting trees at some local council clinics in Harare in tribute to victims of gender based violence. Women naturally gather at clinics and it is where they can derive the most benefit of the trees communally. We will continue to provide our free legal advisory services on all our platforms.