Fight Against GBV Hampered By Withdrawal of Cases
Gender Based Violence victims are forced to withdraw cases against their husbands or live-in-boyfriends. Image by Musasa Project
The world is commemorating the 16 days of activism against gender based violence amid a spike in incidences of violence. The lack of prosecution against perpetrators remains a sticking point.
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BULAWAYO (The Citizen Bulletin) — BULAWAYO’s Ward 17 councillor Sikhululekile Moyo says she has lost count of the number of affidavits she has signed of women withdrawing cases of assault or other forms of violence against their husbands or live-in-boyfriends.
“This is what we come across as community leaders where victims tend to withdraw cases against their partners,” Moyo says.
As Bulawayo residents retreated inside homes due to lockdown measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, reports show an alarming increase in the already existing pandemic of violence against women in the city and across the country in general.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), one of UN’s lead agencies working to further gender equality and empowerment, violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations. It undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence.
Moyo notes that it is no wonder why the country is failing to tame gender based violence (GBV) against women and girls while also attributing the evil vice to Zimbabwe’s patriarchal society.
“It is a sad reality but it is what it is.”
“That is the challenge we face in the fight against GBV where victims are coerced to withdraw cases claiming they have reconciled with their abusers, most of whom are said to be breadwinners.”
Sikhululekile Moyo, Ward 17 councillor
There have been reports in the media of women wailing in court pleading with the presiding Magistrates to spare their partners from jail sentences for GBV as they cite poverty and joblessness.
“This is one area that has to be addressed if we are to fight GBV. Our laws have to be changed not to entertain those who want to withdraw cases of GBV. That is the only way to send a message to offenders that they can be jailed otherwise societal and family pressures will continue to be a barrier in the fight against this vice,” the Ward 17 councillor adds.
According to police insiders, several of the cases do not even make it to court as they are withdrawn by the victims at the Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) established in 1996 primarily to ‘proactively and reactively police crimes of sexual nature committed against women and children.’
Bulawayo acting police spokesperson Nomalanga Msebele did not have ready statistics of GBV cases that have been withdrawn by the victims at the VFU before going to court.
However, the multiple cluster indicator survey of 2019, indicates that 49 percent of women and girls aged between 15 and 49 years have experienced some form of violence in their lives.
The clergy says more has to be done on a household level to fight GBV as the country joins the rest of the world to mark 16 Days of Activism – an annual event to fight violence against women.
This year’s theme is titled: “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, and Collect.”
Take Action | Do not be silent | Seek professional advice | Report Gender Based Violence #16DaysOfActivism. Flier image by Musasa Project
Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) director Useni Sibanda says the church has a major role to influence behavioural change, particularly among men to fight violence against women and girls.
“This is because the Church is the largest social movement that gathers people on a regular basis, so it means its influence on social life is very huge,” Sibanda says.
“It (church) has a strong influence on how males or male figures should behave in social contract, in shaping the mind-set and the behaviour of males, especially husbands or partners in relationships on how to treat their female counterparts.”
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However, there have been cases were church leaders have been found on the wrong side of the law and getting arrested for sexual assault against female congregants.
“In any place, and even the Church, you are likely to find behaviour that is unbecoming. It gets magnified when it is the Church because the truth is that the church has to be seen on a moral high ground…,” Sibanda adds.
“We have to accept that such things happen. No one condones such behaviour hence we have our umbrella bodies that are well-equipped to deal with such offenders within the Church.”
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Victim Friendly Unit, 16 Days of Activism, GBV pandemic, Bulawayo, COVID-19
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