Tinomuda Chakanyuka Sunday News Reporter
AT LEAST 21 women are raped daily in Zimbabwe, translating to one woman being sexually abused every 75 minutes, latest statistics from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Office (ZimStat) have revealed. The data shows a 42 percent increase in rape cases over the past six years, a trend that is worrying gender activists. According to the ZimStat’s quarterlydigest of statistics for the fourth quarter of 2015, an average of 646 women were sexually abused monthly last year. A total of 7 752 cases of rape were recorded last year up from 7 551 cases that were reported the previous year. At least 4 450 cases were recorded in 2010 before the figure went up to 5 446 in 2011 and down to 5 412 in 2012. In 2013 a total of 5 717 were recorded before the cases shot up to over 7 000 in 2014 and 2015.
Gender activists and women’s organisations contend that over 60 percent of sexual abuse of women cases recorded in the country yearly are children below the age of 16. They argue that the cases could be more than what is recorded as a number of victims were not reporting their cases due to fear.
Recently police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba disclosed that at least 11 girls were raped daily in Zimbabwe. She cited close relatives and boyfriends as perpetrators in most cases.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said more than 325 girls were sexually abused monthly, translating to 81 cases recorded weekly.
Musasa Project director Ms Netty Musanhi said the statistics were not surprising, adding that the figures were just a fraction of what was really transpiring on the ground. She called for stiffer penalties for sexual offenders.
“We are not surprised by the figure at all because we see these things happen every day. Actually this is just a fraction of what the situation is like on the ground. A lot of cases are going unreported. What is painful is that the majority of the cases are girls below the age of 16 who are raped for ritual purposes. It is more heartrending when you then look at the link between HIV and rape. Most of the rape victims get infected with HIV,” she said.
Ms Musanhi welcomed the proposal to introduce minimum mandatory sentencing for rape, saying such a development would go a long way in deterring people from committing the crime.
Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) country director Mrs Sibusisiwe Marunda added that the rise in rape cases over the past six years was a clear sign that practical action needed to be taken to protect women and children from abuse. She said apart from deterrent sentences, community education was another tool that could help reduce cases of rape.
In 2014 Government announced plans to introduce a mandatory sentence for rape, as part of efforts to reduce rape and sexual abuse in the country. Cde Oppah Muchinguri who then was the Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development said the proposal came about after consultation with the Cabinet inter-ministerial committee on rape and sexual abuse as well as various stakeholders involved in gender-based violence across Zimbabwe.