International Human Rights Day: Call to action on GBV in Zimbabwe

Date: December 10, 2013
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Harare, 10 December: Zimbabwe’s Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development 0ppah Muchinguri has called on all Zimbabweans to redouble their efforts to end Violence Against Women (VAW). Launching the country’s first comprehensive survey on the prevalence of VAW, on the eve of Human Rights Day she declared: “Today, as we draw close to the end of these commemorations, we are launching results of Zimbabwe’s first ever standalone research on violence against women and girls. The results of this survey are justification enough to even make much more noise for 365 days as there is clear evidence of high incidences of abuse of women and girls in Zimbabwe.”

Several speakers at the launch, attended by over 100 participants from local government, gender officers from all ten provinces of Zimbabwe, the Domestic Violence Council, Faith Based Organisations, and civil society organisations, echoed a similar view. “As we celebrate Human Rights Day, today is a moment to say loud and clear that women’s rights are human rights; they are indivisible, they cannot be negotiated or compromised in any way,” said Colleen Lowe Morna, CEO of Gender Links, which provided technical support for the study.

“A survivor is anyone: rich or poor, affluent and not so affluent, Christian and non-Christian,” said Netty Musanhu, Executive Director of Musasa, which gathered the “I” stories or first- hand accounts for the study. “This study lays bare the myth that if a woman has not been beaten she has not experienced violence. It shows that the highest form of violence is the emotional, psychological and economic violence that never enters the police statistics. This kills the self- esteem of women. It undermines their agency.”

Among the key findings of the Violence Against Women Indicators Study in Zimbabwe are that 68% women experienced some form of violence (psychological, emotional, economic, physical or sexual) in their lifetime. Twenty-six percent women experienced violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the period 2011-2012. Thirteen percent of men in the country admit to perpetrating some form of violence against their intimate partners during a similar period.

Inspired by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development that aims to halve gender violence by 2015, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development (MWAGCD), Gender Links and the Musasa Project measured VAW experience and perpetration. With 6600 respondents from all ten provinces (3326 women and 3274 men), the study is the first standalone, nationally representative and comprehensive community-based research study of the prevalence of VAW in the country. The study, funded by Sida and UNWOMEN, shows that the intimate partner violence (IPV) experience prevalence by province over a lifetime ranges from 48% in Bulawayo to 88% in Mashonaland.

Zimbabwe is one of six SADC countries that have or are in the process of undertaking the study (the other countries include Mauritius, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Lesotho). The flagship prevalence and attitudes survey made use of two separate questionnaires for women (focusing on their experiences) and men (focusing on perpetration) of violence. The focus on women is justified by overwhelming evidence that the majority of gender violence cases consist of violence against women and these cases result in the extensive and well-documented adverse health consequences. Comparing what women say they experience to what men say they do adds credibility to the findings.

The attitude survey found that the majority of women (82%) and men (81%) agreed that women and men should be treated equally. However, over 90% of women and 96% of men agreed that a woman should obey her husband. Over three quarters (77%) of women and 83% of men agreed that a woman needs permission from her husband to pursue paid work. Overall, a higher proportion of men subscribe to the conservative notions compared to women showing that there is a disparity in terms of acceptance of social norms between women and men. The disparity in perceptions in itself may fuel conflict and further research is necessary to support this.

“The attitude part of the survey shows that GBV in Zimbabwe is deeply rooted in patriarchal ideologies that at times ignore and condone violence against women,” Muchinguri said. With the commitment of every individual, family, community and the nation at large, we can end violence against women and girls”

Swedish ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lars RonnÁ¥s noted that corporal punishment in Sweden has been a criminal offense for several years, and called on all countries in the SADC region to do the same. He noted that children learn not from what adults say but what they do: “If we teach children physical force, they will become violent. We need to begin by being role models for our children. “

The study showed that the media stories on GBV, and mentions of GBV in political speeches constitute less than 3% of the total. “The media monitoring and political content analysis show that leaders have not been making their voices heard strongly enough on this national scourge,” the minister said.

Looking back to her days as an activist a decade ago, UNWOMEN Deputy Country Representative Ravai Makanje expressed “anger and disappointment” that so little seems to have changed. She highlighted the global UNite campaign led by the UN Secretary General to end violence against women and girls.

Zimbabwe has a multi-sectoral Anti-Domestic Violence Council mandated to ensure effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. This forms part of the National Gender Based Violence Strategy 2012 – 2015. Anti-Domestic Violence Council Chairperson Kelvin Hazangwi said a sobering fact revealed by the report is that only one in 14 women report cases of violence to the police. He said the study “provides powerful evidence for the actions that need to be taken.”

The launch of the Zimbabwe VAW study is unique in that it has been followed by an action-planning workshop to ensure that the baseline data informs actions to be taken, as well as budget allocations. “We must use this data to inform strategic interventions in line with the already existing frameworks to address gender based violence. It is critical that resources are availed from the national budget to finance effective implementation,” Muchinguri said.

For more information on the study click here. To purchase a copy of the book contact in Zimbabwe, or from anywhere else in the world.



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