The Sunday News
ZIMBABWE has joined the world in marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), with the Government being hailed for coming up with laws and policies that seek to end GBV and also ensure that perpetrators are brought to book.
One such initiative that has been hailed is the creation of Victim Friendly Courts, where victims of GBV, especially children, are able to give evidence in separate rooms without fear and undue pressure from members of the public. Zimbabwe has 22 regional courts across the country with features for Victim Friendly Courts. The Government has also come up with a law against child marriages, and also raised the age of consent for sex from 16 to 18 years, among other measures to ensure that the rights of children and women, who are mostly victims of GBV, are protected.
In an article published by Unicef, Mr Francis Mutema, the VFCs coordinator in the Chief Magistrate’s office, is quoted as saying the system was a “bastion of survivor-centred gender-based violence responses.”
“Our duty is to give a voice to the voiceless. As you know, gender-based violence is about power, and the victims are vulnerable members of society, such as children and women. The system is meant to protect survivors while ensuring justice is done. We don’t want survivors of gender-based violence to be re-traumatised, and we do this by removing them from the ordinary courtroom. The system is designed to protect the survivor by moderating the language from the accused so that the child can understand what is being said,” he was quoted as saying.
The 16 Days of Activism against GBV initiative is supported by the United Nations through the UNITE to End Violence initiative.
“Managed by UN Women, UNITE calls on governments, civil society, women’s organisations, young people, the private sector, media, and the UN system to join forces to address the global pandemic of violence against women and girls. The global theme of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, which runs from 25 November to 10 December 2023, is “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls,” according to unwomen.org.
During the launch of the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development in collaboration with the United Nations country team Zimbabwe and its partners, called for the doubling of efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls.
In her speech, Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, said gender-based violence slows economic growth and constitutes a breach of the most sacred of moral contracts, that everyone has the right to feel safe and secure, to freely be their authentic selves and to chart their own destiny.
“Ending violence in our communities is going to take all of us and it is critical that men and people of all genders are active participants and promoters of changes to the current status quo. It is also critical to combat not only the individual instances of violence, but also the systemic forms of violence, as violence does not occur in a vacuum but rather in a society that condones and encourages it,” according to antiviolenceproject.org.