GBV down to societal, religious beliefs

In the statement, ZimRights said GBV victims continued to suffer in silence due to limited knowledge of rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Patriarchy, societal and religious beliefs, politics and a culture of impunity that protects and shields perpetrators are the major contributory factors to gender-based violence, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has said.

The ZimRights statement came after the launch of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign at the weekend.

The campaign is running under the theme Unite! Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls.

In the statement, ZimRights said GBV victims continued to suffer in silence due to limited knowledge of rights enshrined in the Constitution.

“Women and girls have also not been spared by the deteriorating socio-economic conditions being witnessed in Zimbabwe.

“In some cases, gender-based violence is related to poor service delivery and in drought-affected areas, women and girls are forced to walk long distances to collect water, facing an increased risk of sexual violence,” the organisation said.

ZimRights said unbalanced power dynamics also exacerbated exposure to sexual exploitation and abuse, as women and girls increasingly resort to trading sex as a means of providing the most basic needs for their families.

“The use of lobola (bride price) as an alternative income source is a documented practice in the current context, contributing to an increase in early marriage, while in areas where the apostolic faith sect is predominant, communities marry (off) girls at younger ages in the misguided belief that they will somehow appease ‘spirits’ causing drought and economic hardship,” the statement said.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, more than 32% of girls in Zimbabwe are married off before the age of 18 and 12% of them are married off before the age of 15.

Research by the United Nations Children’s Fund, in collaboration with the government, Muthengo Development Studies, Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network and Youth Advocates Zimbabwe this year showed that 60% of school dropouts in the country were as a result of drug and substance use.

ZimRights implored the government to allocate adequate resources and support to civil society organisations and movements that work tirelessly to provide services and assistance to the survivors of violence, and to raise awareness and advocate for the elimination of violence against women and girls.

“ZimRights calls on the government of Zimbabwe to fulfil its obligations under the Constitution and the international human rights instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, to prevent, protect, and prosecute violence against women and girls.”

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