In these 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, we celebrate the strength, tenacity, resilience, courage and resolve of the women and girls we serve, and those we work with to serve others.
We celebrate our society coming together to honour women and girls, and to focus on their hopes and struggles. We celebrate the updating of the recently launched Protocol on the Multi-sectoral Management of Sexual Abuse and Violence in Zimbabwe.
The Protocol has provided a blueprint in the handling of sexual offences in Zimbabwe, a scourge that ranks high insofar as impeding the freedom and advancement of women and girls is concerned.
We are not where we were, but we are not where we need to be either. So, as we celebrate, our joy is muted by the deafening cry of women and girls who are still at the receiving end of abuse, discrimination and violence every day.
Gender inequality does not only manifest itself in differential treatment between boys and girls, men and women, but structural inequalities that disadvantage women and girls more.
The current economic environment, in greater part, is attributed to cross-sectoral challenges that impact on the female more, are a massive contributor to missing the mark in ensuring gender equality in Zimbabwe. This is because poverty and economic strife have serious gender ramifications: women and girls are disproportionately affected. It is women and girls who become vulnerable to sexual exploitation; it is women and girls who are being abused in the water queues in the high-density suburbs of Harare and other cities; it is women and girls who, because of socialisation, have to make a plan to ensure there is food on the table. As this happens, women and girls fail to catch up with men and boys in pursuit of careers and other opportunities.
One facet of such structural inequalities is when the institution of law does not protect the girl child to the fullest extent possible. To that end, JCT is saddened by the lapsing of the Marriages Bill that was before the 1st Session of the 9th Parliament of Zimbabwe.
The Marriages Bill seeks, among other things, to end child marriages and provide protection for girls who are currently in child marriages. We call for an urgent re-introduction of the Bill so that legal relief is provided to the girl child.
Yet, another law on the cards is the amendment of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act to re-define the minimum sentences regime for sexual offences.
Sexual offences are on the rise in Zimbabwe, and it is high time the law harshly frowns against perpetrators of sexual offences against women and girls. JCT continues to work with government and partners to see this law through.
If Zimbabwe hopes to keep up the pace with the world, and achieve gender parity, it starts with empowerment of girls and young women, availing opportunities to them and granting them access to such opportunities.
Inequalities of this generation passed on to the next, is a problem perpetuated beyond necessary. We cannot afford to lose a day more on what we can act upon today.- justiceforchildren