Women’s Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri who is also in charge of Gender and Community Development has called for less talk and more action on gender violence which she said was on the increase.
She said though her ministry was fully committed, geared and “hands on” in addressing this social rot, there was need for individuals to commit themselves to change their attitude and perception of gender violence.
“Peace begins with me. Peace begins with you,” she said.
Muchinguri was responding to the motion on the mandatory rape sentence introduced by Jesse Majome. She said she fully supported the stiffer sentence of a minimum of 30 years because incidence of gender-based violence had increased since the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007.
According to the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Victim Friendly Unit, she said, cases of domestic violence had increased from 1 940 in 2008 to 10 871 in 2012.
A total of 2 883 women were raped in 2010 and the cases were increasing by about 5 percent every year. An alarming 2 326 women were raped in the first quarter of 2012.
Muchinguri said 99 percent of the gender-based violence cases were perpetrated by men on women and the perpetrators were often close relatives or people known to the victims.
THE MINISTER OF WOMEN’S AFFAIRS, GENDER AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT (MRS. MUCHINGURI): Mr.Speaker Sir, I would like to thank Hon. Jessie Majome for raising the motion on mandatory sentencing for rape. Let me thank all hon. members who actively participated and contributed positively throughout the debate. As the Minister responsible for gender, I take note of all the valuable and rich contributions that have come out of this debate and this will go a long way in shaping the ministry’s response to gender based violence.
Addressing issues of gender based violence, particularly rape and sexual violence, is a priority for my ministry and a lot of work is being done to address this social ill that has wrecked our society. Rape is a traumatic experience and so, is any form of abuse whether physical or emotional. Rape and sexual violence can have serious short and long term physical, psychological and social consequences, not only for the survivor but also for their families and communities.
Mr. Speaker Sir, incidences of gender based violence, particularly rape, are on the increase. Since the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007, there has been a marked increase on reported cases of domestic violence from 1 940 in 2008 to 10 871 in 2012, as provided by the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit. Figures released by ZRP show that there is a gradual increase of about five percent in rape cases from 2010 to date. In 2010, a total of 2 883 women were raped, with the figure slightly increasing in 2011; where 3 172 women were also raped. In an alarming trend the first quarter of 2012 saw a total of 2 326 women being raped. Of the 2012 January to June figures, 1 553 of the victims were girls under the age of 16. In 2013, the number increased to 1 628 during the same period. A total of 773 women over the age of 16 were raped during the same period in 2012 compared to the 812 who were raped in 2013.
It is important to note that in Zimbabwe, in 99% of GBV (Gender Based Violence) cases, women continue to be victims while men are perpetrators. Also, in the majority of the GBV cases, perpetrators are often close relatives or persons known to the victims and in most cases these abuses are experienced in the homes.
Mr. Speaker Sir, GBV is defined as, “Any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed differences between males and females”. Gender Based Violence is a serious global problem and has been acknowledged worldwide as a human rights violation. As such, a number of commitments have been made both at international and regional levels to address the problem.
Regional and international instruments such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the AU Women’s Protocol and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development to identify violence against women as one of the priority areas and State Parties are called upon to put in place measures to address violence against women.
Mr. Speaker Sir, at national level, let me acknowledge that our new Constitution, Part 2: Section 52 provides for protection and freedom from all forms of violence from public and private sources. In addition, the Domestic Violence Act (2007) was enacted specifically to address domestic violence by providing protection and relief to victims of domestic violence.
The Anti-Domestic Violence Council (ADVC) was put in place to monitor implementation of this Act. The Council has a critical role to play in ensuring that as a nation, we implement policies and laws to address GBV but due to non-allocation of resources by Treasury, it has been very difficult for the Council to fulfill its critical mandate.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I wish to raise the following in response to the motion raised by Honourable Majome. On the mandatory sentence for rape and appropriate sentences for other forms of GBV, I strongly support the motion for stiffer sentences and acknowledge the recent efforts by our Courts in sentencing rapists, in particular the 230 year sentence for the serial rapist and armed robber Chirembwe and the 40 year sentence given to Gumbura.
My ministry will continue to monitor the sentencing trends for rape and take advantage of the on-going realignment process of laws and statutes to ensure that there is a mandatory sentencing for rapists. In addition, the Domestic Violence Act will also be reviewed to ensure appropriate sentencing for other forms of GBV are affected. I have no doubt; Mr. Speaker Sir that the critical issues raised during this debate will further enrich our advocacy efforts for mandatory sentence of at least a minimum of 30 years. – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear]-
Regarding the implementation of the Zimbabwe National Gender Based Violence Strategy, my ministry is happy to inform the House that an Action Plan is already in place as part of the National Gender Based Violence Strategy document.
As indicated by Hon. Khupe and Hon. Majome in their intervention, the National Gender Based Violence Strategy of 2012 is expected to last up to 2015. It was developed as a guiding framework for all stakeholders in preventing and responding to gender based violence through a coordinated and multi-sectoral effort by Government, civil society and development partners. As part of implementing the National GBV Strategy, the following is being done: –
(i) Multi-sectoral Services and Responses.
Mr. Speaker Sir, through enhanced coordination, my ministry together with relevant Government ministries and civil society organisations such as Musasa, Adult Rape Clinic, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, Padare Men’s Forum for Gender, Women Action Group and Women and Law in Southern Africa has effectively responded to the problem of gender based violence through the implementation of the multi-sectoral response system. This is founded on the bases that no single sector can adequately tackle GBV on its own, hence the need to engage different sectors to ensure that responses address the multiple needs of GBV survivors.
The multi-sectoral approach has assisted survivors to access a wide range of services which are related to health, psychosocial support, legal aid, protection services, safe sheltering and economic empowerment.
GBV service providers have been trained on how to handle survivors in line with the established Standard Operating Procedures. Let me also inform the House that my ministry recently commissioned the second One Stop Care and Counselling Centre in Harare, situated at Musasa and this will go a long way in assisting survivors of GBV. The first one was commissioned in Rusape.
On the awareness raising, Madam Speaker, continuous awareness raising on GBV is being done through targeted campaigns such as the 4Ps campaign which focuses on Prevention, Protection, Participation and Programmes. This is a community based awareness programme that focuses on raising awareness on domestic violence, popularising the Domestic Violence Act and strengthening the capacity of communities to establish mechanisms for preventing and responding to gender based violence.
The 4Ps campaign has positively impacted on the lives of ordinary men and women, and this has resulted in increased community awareness of domestic violence. My ministry has taken advantage of the Mai Chisamba Show to discuss gender based violence issues. In addition to this, radio programmes are currently being aired on Radio Zimbabwe and Star FM with the aim to reach out to as many people as possible; the programmes are being done in English, Shona and Ndebele.
Concerning the community based interventions; my ministry has employed community based strategies to tackle the problems of GBV.
Through working with civil society organisations, my ministry has initiated community dialogues nationwide with men and women, traditional and religious leaders and young people on Gender Based Violence. The aim of the community dialogues is to come up with community based interventions for the protection and prevention of GBV.
Community Protection Committees have also been established to ensure implementation and reinforcement of interventions to protect women and girls. This has also resulted in positive transformation of prevailing beliefs, attitudes and norms that perpetuate GBV.
Importantly, my ministry, working with Chiefs, is in the process of establishing community based shelters to provide temporary relief to GBV survivors within their localities. Through private-public partnerships, we shall also be establishing a safe shelter in Harare to cater for the high case loads which are currently prevalent.
On the engagement with traditional leaders, traditional leaders have been trained on GBV to create a critical mass of opinion leaders that will promote the message of social change for a zero tolerance to GBV. Through community dialogues, the negative cultural practices that include early marriages, child pledging and forced wife inheritance have been challenged. At community level, village heads, headmen and chiefs run traditional courts to deal with, among other issues, cases of GBV.
They have used such platforms to openly condemn gender based violence and have enforced local sanctions on perpetrators of violence.
2.5 Male Involvement and Participation
Mr. Speaker Sir, the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey showed that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of violence suffered by women. I cannot agree more on the issues raised by hon. members to engage men in our fight against GBV. My Ministry has done this by making men the focus of sensitisation efforts and awareness campaigns and training men to be role models and advocates in advancing gender equality. Men’s groups like Padare Men’s Forum on Gender have taken the lead role in discussing transformative masculinity and the negative effects of patriarchy. By allowing men to lead such activities, it has worked in convincing their fellow counterparts to reflect on their behavior, attitudes and practices that condone gender based violence. Further, as requested by hon. members during this debate, my Ministry will organise training on gender and GBV for all the male Members of Parliament.
2.6 Legal Literacy Programme
Mr. Speaker Sir, following the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act, Zimbabwe embarked on a massive Legal Literacy Programme with a view to take the law to the people. The objective of this programme is to raise awareness on the provisions of the law inclusive of other family laws in a simplified manner. This programme has increased the capacity of communities, mainly women and girls to claim their rights and seek recourse through the formal justice system. Simplified versions of the Domestic Violence Act and other family laws, translated to local language have been widely distributed at community level.
2.7 Economic Empowerment of Women
Mr. Speaker Sir, it has been noted that lack of economic power fuels gender based violence, hence the Government is committed to promoting empowerment of women as a strategic intervention to ending violence against women and girls. My Ministry has developed a Broad Based Women’s Economic Empowerment Framework to facilitate participation of women in key economic sectors namely agriculture, mining, tourism and manufacturing among others. In addition, the Ministry continues to empower women though the Women’s Development Fund which is a revolving fund meant to avail collateral free loans to women from all over the country who are undertaking various businesses.
2.8 Gender Commission
Mr. Speaker Sir, let me inform this House that, in accordance with the provisions of the new Constitution which provides for the establishment of a Zimbabwe Gender Commission, my Ministry is in the process of facilitating the development of an enabling legislation for the Gender Commission. The Gender Commission is expected to act as a watchdog in gender equality and equity issues. It is my hope that with the coming of the Gender Commission, the Commission will ensure that the Ministry and the Anti-Domestic Violence Council are adequately resourced to execute their mandates.
3. Challenges in Implementation
Mr. Speaker Sir, despite these efforts, challenges still remain and these include:
- Lack of adequate economic empowerment programmes for women resulting in high withdrawal of cases especially when the perpetrator is the breadwinner.
- Lack of safe shelters to accommodate GBV survivors while perpetrators await trial.
- Sentencing of perpetrators has not been deterring as highlighted during this debate.
- Negative perceptions and attitudes by communities and individuals have hindered progress in addressing GBV.
- Inadequate resources from the national budget to support GBV Programmes.
- Inadequate support systems for GBV survivors and their familiesInadequate resources to fully operationalise the Anti-Domestic Violence Council whose mandate is to monitor and ensure effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.
Mr. Speaker Sir, let me conclude by stating that it is my fervent hope and plea to the hon. House that we should have “less talk and more action”. My Ministry is fully committed, geared and “hands on” in addressing this social rot of GBV. We will continue to advocate for the empowerment of women which gives women an emancipated platform to speak out against abuse. Inasmuch as we have disseminated information to raise awareness on GBV, it is entirely upon an individual to commit themselves to change their attitude and perception (PEACE BEGINS WITH ME, PEACE BEGINS WITH YOU). FROM PEACE IN THE HOMES, TO PEACE IN OUR COMMUNITIES).
I thank you.