Nip GBV in the bud…‘consider boys and men too’

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By Benhilda Chademana

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE (GBV) is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality and continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations not only in Zimbabwe but world over.

The UNHCR defines GBV as, “harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender,” and in Zimbabwe, there has been a sharp rise in GBV cases.

According to the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, at least 22 women are raped daily in Zimbabwe with an average of one rape taking place per 75 minutes, translating to an average of 646 women being violated each month.

It is also reported that nearly half of Zimbabwean girls have experienced physical violence and one-third have faced sexual violence.

Isn’t that disturbing?  

Organisations such as Musasa Project and Zimbabwe Gender Commission say GBV cases are influenced by several factors ranging from depleted incomes, loss of social comfort, new lifestyles and physical violence, all induced by the ripple effects of COVID-19.

Of course there are other factors that may be cultural or political. 

It is not a secret that GBV is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue, particularly if it is estimated that one in three women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. 

However, GBV is preventable and institutions such as UNHCR say they are committed to promoting gender equality and human rights and to protect refugees and other persons of concern from GBV.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe’s weapons to fight GBV range from the Constitution and criminal codes to the Zimbabwe Republic Police specialised Victim Friendly Units, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and numerous organisations dotted across the country.

The Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development also works with civil society, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other UN agencies to increase the availability and utilisation of GBV services.

Nonetheless, pundits contend GBV remains both prevalent and vastly under-reported as many survivors decide to suffer in silence rather than risk stigmatisation or an unresponsive legal system in some countries.

In Zimbabwe, most citizens say physical force is never justified to discipline women, but they report that GBV is a common occurrence and constitutes the most important women’s rights issue that the government and the society must address. 

Gender-Based Violence takes numerous forms that include; intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child marriages, female genital mutilation, trafficking for sexual exploitation, female infanticide and ‘honour’ crimes. 

Girls and women may also experience GBV when they are deprived of nutrition and education.

Survivors of GBV, however, suffer devastating short and long-term consequences to their physical and mental health.

Women and girls may experience severe physical injuries, unwanted pregnancies and exposure to HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.

Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the limited ability to complete daily tasks and suicidal thoughts are also common.

And what is more disturbing is that many survivors are subjected to victim-blaming or ostracised from their families and communities due to social norms. 

This puts them at significant risk of poverty, isolation and further violence.

Some survivors are also forced to marry their perpetrators, while others face retaliation for reporting their experiences or seeking support – including at the hands of family members. 

At its worst, GBV can result in death. 

Analysts concur GBV has had a significant impact on Zimbabwe’s social and economic development, but several measures are being undertaken to prevent GBV. 

“We worked closely with Zimbabwe’s Department of Child Welfare and Probation services to develop and deliver key programming efforts to target these issues,” said UNFPA in a statement.

“Through our Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response Programme, we supported local Zimbabwean organisations and Government officials to prevent and respond to GBV against adolescent girls.

Key prevention activities included:

Integrating GBV and sexual abuse prevention material into relevant curriculum and programme activities for girls and boys clubs at secondary schools and community-based centres for out-of-school youth.

Training teachers in psychosocial support (PSS) and child rights so they can respond to GBV-related issues in school.

Family clubs to address the roots of GBV by engaging men in discussions about harmful cultural norms, such as child marriage and widow inheritance.

Utilising radio broadcasts and SMS messaging to further spread awareness about gender equality and GBV.

Key response activities included:

Advocating legal changes that allow certified nurses to become sexual assault nurse examiners, expanding survivors’ ability to access services despite Zimbabwe’s shortage of nurses.

Supporting GBV survivors with psychosocial and medical assistance.

Providing legal representation, transport, food and accommodation to children and their caregivers’ lengthy legal process involved in reporting instances in GBV.

Organising our Stop the Bus approach; a mobile one-stop-shop that combines awareness-raising and demand generation for GBV services, with on-the-spot linkages to medical, legal, and counselling support for survivors.

Developing community resources maps so that survivors and their families can find support services.”

No doubt, GBV is prevalent in our communities but has to be nipped in the bud.

It is also imperative to note that boys and men are also victims of GBV. 

Only the ‘bold ones’ report to the police and let the law take its course as was the case with Tawanda Makarimayi from Harare. 

He recently approached the Harare Civil Court claiming that his wife Margaret Frank verbally insults and assaults him and threatens to poison him.

Magistrate Tamara Chibindi duly granted the protection order in Makarimayi’s favour. 

Therefore, as everyone continues to advocate the protection of women and the girlchild in particular, we must also spare a thought for the many men out there who are suffering in silence.

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