42 percent of married women sexually abused
HARARE – About 42 percent of married women in the country have experienced sexual and or physical abuse by their husbands, with the highest number of cases recorded in Mashonaland Central Province while Matabeleland North has the lowest rate.
Presenting statistics at the recently ended Zimbabwe Sadc Gender Protocol Summit in Harare, the gender director in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Ms Caroline Matizha, said the “shocking” figures came from a recent Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS).
The summit was convened by Gender Links, a Non-Governmental Organisation, and the report covered people aged between 15 and 49. She said sexual abuse ranged from marital rape to husbands coming home drunk, presumably from small houses, and forcing their wives to have unprotected sex.
Ms Matizha said although the figures were disheartening, unity of purpose among stakeholders could help in reducing the trend. “Mashonaland Central Province has the highest number of cases with about 56 percent of married women in the province, having experienced abuse.
“Manicaland follows at 49 percent, Mashonaland West has 47 percent and Mashonaland East 42. Approximately 40 percent of women in Harare and Masvingo have been victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and 39 percent have been bashed or raped by their spouses,” said Ms Matizha.
She said although the figures were lower in Matabeleland, they were still a cause for concern because violence and ill treatment had no place in the in marriage institution.
“In Matabeleland South, 39 percent of women have suffered from abuse, while in Bulawayo 29 percent had been mistreated and only 17 percent had their rights violated by their husbands in Matabeleland North,” she said.
Ms Matizha said despite numerous efforts by Government and development partners, GBV still remained a major challenge in the country.
She said Zimbabwe was party to key international and regional instruments on women’s rights, which included the Convention Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Declaration, Sadc and AU Protocols on Gender, which oblige member states to take measures to address GBV.
“On top of that the Government has enacted a number of laws, policies and guidelines to prevent and protect survivors of gender based violence.
“These include the Domestic Violence Act (2007), which provides for protection and relief to victims of domestic violence. Through the Domestic Violence legislation, women can now seek legal remedies through the justice system while legal literacy campaign at community level to raise awareness on the provisions of the Act and other family laws empower women to protect themselves,” she said.
Ms Matizha expressed concern at the lack of shelters for the treatment of traumatised abuse victims in the country. “The Government has let us down in this regard. It is only Musasa which provides shelters for victims,” she said.
Ms Matizha said her Ministry had intensified campaigns to raise awareness about the scourge of GBV with a view of reducing cases by about 50 percent as dictated in the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development.
“We have increased interaction with traditional leaders, community leaders and males in the hope that as more people take notice, there will be more peace in the homes. I am optimistic that a collective effort can eventually end GBV,” she said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, the national director of Enkundleni/Padare, the men’s forum on gender, Mr Kevin Hazangwi, said the statistics were a true reflection of the brutality being experienced in homes across the country.
“I am sad to say the statistics are correct. It is frightening that what should ideally be the safest institution — marriage — has become a place where our mothers and sisters feel least safe,” said Mr Hazangwi.
He said he found it highly disturbing that the leading causes of GBV were petty issues like burning food, touching a husband’s mobile phone, or going out of the home without telling the “man of the house.”
Mr Hazangwi said it was time for everyone to really understand gender justice, which called for equal opportunities for both men and women, not empowering one sex by taking away the rights of another.
“I believe spouse abuse can be overcome if we all come together, acknowledge the problem exists and teach men and young boys that violence or force can never be a solution to any problem or disagreement in the home,” he said. The Herald