Rape survivors demonstrate in Harare
Women continue to be prime targets of rape and domestic violence in Zimbabwe with the authorities turning a blind eye on cases involving Zanu PF supporters, an authoritative report said.
“While the law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, the law was not effectively enforced, and rape remained a widespread problem. Sexual offenses, including rape, are punishable by lengthy prison sentences, although women’s organizations stated that the sentences of those convicted were inconsistent. Rape victims seldom received protection in court,” said the United States State Department global report on human rights released last week.
The report reads:
“Victims reported few cases of rape due to social stigma and societal perceptions that rape was simply a “fact of life” that could not be challenged. A lack of services for rape victims also discouraged reporting. Victims reported even fewer cases of spousal rape because of fear of losing economic support, fear of reprisal, lack of awareness that spousal rape was a crime, police reluctance to be involved in domestic disputes, and bureaucratic hurdles. Most rural citizens were unfamiliar with laws against domestic violence and sexual offenses. Chiefs of local jurisdictions usually handled gender-based violence in trials applying customary law.
Police sometimes did not act on reported rape cases if the perpetrators were aligned with ZANU-PF or if the rape was used as a political tool against non-ZANU-PF members, as occurred during the 2008 election. Unlike the 2008 elections, which resulted in numerous cases of politically motivated gang rapes, there were very few reports of rape used as a political weapon during the 2013 elections period.
The media frequently published stories criticizing rape and reporting convictions. In September the Chronicle newspaper reported that a Harare magistrate sentenced Greatness Tapfuma, a prominent local pastor, to 30 years in prison for raping a female minor. During the sentencing the magistrate expressed concern regarding the prevalence of rape cases committed by religious leaders. In May a man age 19 was sentenced to 210 hours of community service for impregnating a girl age 12.
Children born from rape suffered stigmatization and marginalization. The mothers of children resulting from rape sometimes were reluctant to register the births, and such children did not have access to social services.
The adult rape clinics in public hospitals in Harare and Mutare were run as NGOs and did not receive a substantial amount of financial support from the Ministry of Health. The clinics received referrals from police and NGOs. They administered HIV tests, provided medication for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and provided medical services for pregnancy. Although police referred the majority of reported rapes of women and men who received services from the rape centers for prosecution, very few were prosecuted. Private clinics and clinics supported by NGOs and bilateral and multilateral development partners emerged in the past few years to provide medical assistance to survivors of rape. There were also NGOs that provided psychosocial support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence through assistance from the Integrated Support Program, a multidonor effort funded by international aid donors and managed by the UN Population Fund.
In June 2014 the government launched an anti-rape campaign that included a national action plan to combat the problem. The plan focuses on rape prevention services, researching the problem, and increasing coordination between government agencies and civic groups working on the problem. Women’s organizations contended that the government was not likely to implement the plan due to resource constraints.”
© Now Daily 2016. All Rights Reserved.