The Sunday News
Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Sunday News Reporter
AT least 22 women are raped daily in Zimbabwe, translating to almost one woman being sexually abused every hour as statistics from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Office (ZimStat) show an increase in sexual abuse in the country.
The data shows an 81 percent increase in rape cases between 2010 and 2016, a trend that has worried gender activists.
According to the Zimstat’s quarterly digest of statistics for the fourth quarter of 2016, 8 069 women were raped in 2016 up from 4 450 recorded in 2010. 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 are on record stating that more than 60 percent of rape cases recorded in the country yearly involve children below the age of 16. They contend that majority of perpetrators are relatives. Gender activist and director at Katswe Sistahood Ms Talent Jumo said the available statistics may just be a fraction of what is on the ground as a number of victims were not reporting their cases due to a number of circumstances.
“We live in a society that does not encourage conversations around sex and sexuality. As a result a lot of girls are suffering in silence. A number of cases are going unreported. In most cases teachers are the ones who discover that a child has been raped because the home and society are not friendly enough to allow the girl child to speak out when she has been violated,” she said.
Ms Jumo called for stiffer penalties for sexual offenders and called for the introduction of a minimum mandatory sentence for perpetrators.
“I think the sentence is not stiff enough. We need a minimum mandatory sentence for rape. Cattle rustling attracts stiffer punishment. So from an advocacy point of view we need to get to a point where we say enough is enough. Convictions are happening, yes, but they seem lenient,” she said.
Another gender activists and programmes officer for Hands of Hope, Mrs Vimbai Nhutsve-Musengi echoed similar sentiments on stiffer penalties for perpetrators of sexual abuse. She said the country’s legal system was exposing women to abuse.
“Most perpetrators are out there walking. The penalties are not stiff enough to deter would be offenders. There is need for us to revisit our laws and ensure that they protect women from abuse. Imagine someone getting community service for sexually abusing a woman. How does that deter the next person from committing a similar offence?” she quizzed. The Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development has proposed the introduction of a mandatory 30-year sentence for rape, as part of efforts to reduce rape and sexual abuse in the country. According to the proposal, raping children between zero to 12 years, and sodomising and raping, where the rapist knows that they are HIV positive will attract life imprisonment while 30 years would be the minimum sentence for any case of rape.