The government says it is working on efforts to introduce tough mandatory rape sentences of up to life imprisonment as cases of gender based violence, particularly rape are rising sharply in the country with more 4,300 women being raped between January and October this year.
Speaking as she launched the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, Women’s Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri said under the proposals for mandatory rape sentencing, due to be submitted to cabinet soon, raping children below 12 years will attract a life imprisonment sentence.
She said most rape cases were occurring at home where young girls are being raped by relatives hence this year’s theme, ‘From peace in the home to peace in our communities: Promoting safe spaces for women and girls’.
Muchinguri said the fact that most rape cases were occurring at home is an indication that something has gone badly wrong with the family value system in Zimbabwe.
She said the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007 and various other initiatives, for example, the setting-up of an inter-ministerial task force on rape and sexual offences shows the government’s commitment to eradicate gender-based violence.
Netty Musanhu, director of Musasa Project, an organisation that deals with abused women, said most of the cases are occurring at home, adding Musasa Project has set up shelters in some districts to house victims of gender-based violence.
She called for a multi-sectoral approach in dealing with the scourge of the gender based violence saying the police, the courts and individuals were not doing enough to end violence, especially against women.
Musanhu said the church is also not doing enough to curb the scourge, adding some men of cloth are also abusing women.
President of the Chiefs’ Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira, said the country’s justice system is to blame for the increase in rape cases saying sentences are not harsh enough to deter would-be rapists.
Charumbira said in addition to meting out harsh sentences, victims must also be compensated as they would have been violated.
The campaign takes place annually worldwide from November 25 to December 10 to raise awareness on the problem and the need to end abuse of women and young girls.
It also aims to influence behavior change and secure commitments from governments to end gender based violence.