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Despite Legislative Safeguards, Domestic Violence Remains High in Zimbabwe

  • Tatenda Gumbo

Domestic violence against women remains a major problem in Zimbabwe despite legislative safeguards adopted six years ago, and concerted efforts by the government and lobby groups to curb the scourge.

In a survey by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, some 30 percent of women said they had experienced physical violence since the age of 15, a figure slightly lower than statistics recorded in 2005.

Eighteen percent of respondents reported experiencing physical violence within the past 12 months. Many said the violence was "perpetrated by a current or former partner or boyfriend."

Responding to the high incidence of domestic abuse, the government enacted the Domestic Violence Act in 2006 amid cheers from advocates, but six years down the line, critics say the law say the law has not lived up to expectation.

The law criminalizes different forms of abuse, including physical abuse, sexual, emotional, verbal, psychological and economic abuse.

The women affairs ministry is pushing for zero tolerance against domestic abuse, demanding adequate protection.

Coordinator Glanis Changachirere of the Institute for Young Women Development told VOA cultural practices are exacerbating the problem, urging government to plug traditional loopholes that expose women to abuse.

Changachirere said the cultural practices included lobola, or bride price where a man feels entitled to his wife, adding "men still perceive women as minors; they still want to be above in terms of making decisions, and they want to be listened to by women."

Director Irene Petras of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights concurred, saying cultural views continue to be a problem.

"In having those proper systems in place and being able to resort to the system, so that the police and law enforcement are able to do what they need to do," said Petras, "women and other victims of domestic violence would feel comfortable and confident in reporting cases."