Fatima Bulla-Musakwa

GOVERNMENT is implementing a raft of measures to support victims of Gender-Based Violence after the number of GBV cases spiked during lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19.

Zimbabwe last week joined the rest of the world in marking the 16 Days of Activism against GBV, running from November 25, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, which is also Human Rights Day.

According to Musasa Project, the national GBV hotline recorded 5 306 calls from the beginning of the lockdown on March 30 until October 7. 

This represents an average increase of over 60 percent compared to the pre-lockdown trends. About 94 percent of the calls were from women.

Speaking at a meeting organised by the Parliament of Zimbabwe last week, Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni said GBV is one of the greatest ills bedevilling Zimbabwe. 

“The Ministry of Women Affairs is setting up one-stop centres for survivors of GBV, establishment of safe markets and training of district stakeholders on mainstreaming Gender-Based Violence on humanitarian action,” she said. 

Minister Nyoni said it is critical to put in place rehabilitation programmes for survivors to recover from the trauma and contribute towards the development of the nation. 

Senate President Senator Mabel Chinomona said most GBV cases were a result of male entitlement. 

“The root causes and drivers of violence against women and girls are embedded in our patriarchal society characterised by male entitlement, privilege and the exercise of male control and power. 

“Therefore violence against women is a result of unequal power relations between men and women in society which leads to discrimination against women,” she said.

UN resident co-ordinator, Maria Ribeiro, said:

“Lockdowns and quarantines have helped us to respond to Covid-19. However, they have also put woman and girls in abusive situations.

“Parliament is responding to GBV through enacting, for instance, domestic violence legislation and pushing increased budget funding to address GBV.” 

European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Timo Olkannen, said GBV was one of the biggest barriers to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as one in three women worldwide still suffer physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner.

Experts say GBV takes different forms , it includes physical violence, sexual violence or rape; sexual harassment in the workplace, in public and private offices; psychological violence or withdrawal of women’s rights in every sphere of life.

It also includes ignoring the woman, not giving them due assignments, duties, allowances, equipment or workspace due to them, verbal violence, vulgar and inappropriate language and withdrawal of benefits due to them including jobs. 

The effects of GBV include: injury; disability; chronic health illness; sexual reproductive health problems; lack of confidence and self-esteem; as well as depression and possible suicide.

As a result, GBV causes huge economic costs for countries leading to increased burden on the health systems of individual nations.

This year’s global theme for the 16 Days of Activism against GBV is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, and Collect!”

Zimbabwe is a signatory to many international protocols which provide for upholding of the rights of women among other issues.

These include the Convention on the Elimination of Violence against women, Dakar Platform for Action, Protocol to the African Charter on human and people’s rights on the rights of women in Africa and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

Locally laws such as the Domestic Violence Act have been enacted with the Marriages Bill currently before Parliament seeking to protect the rights of women during and after dissolution of civil partnerships.