WASHINGTON — The recent police report indicating a disturbingly high number of cases of sexual abuse of children in Zimbabwe is sparking calls for more to be done to protect victims and punish abusers.
In its report, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit said more than 2,400 children under the age of 18 were victims of rape between January and October this year.
Overall 3,421 sexual abuse cases were reported during the period.
The report says neighbors account for 41 percent of perpetrators, while relatives left in care of children, accounted for 27 percent.
Advocates said raising the issue is important, as research indicates that more cases of rape and sexual abuse occur than are ever reported to police.
They said systemic issues such as culture, fear of police, and an unsupportive justice system hamper Zimbabwe’s ability to curb child sexual abuse.
Other cases are pinpointed to the relation of the victim to their abusers, who at times are relatives and fear of exposure leaves families to remain in silence.
For perspective VOA spoke to Netty Musanhu, executive director of the Msasa Project, and Deputy Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Jessie Majome.
Majome said the statistics paint a stark picture for children in Zimbabwe, and it is government that needs to play a role in protecting these children.
She outlined a five-part strategy, launched during commemorations of '16 Days of Gender Activism,' aimed at issues of sexual and gender based violence.
"The government is primarily responsible for the security of the people," said Majome, adding that the strategic plan is about deepening measures to protect people from gender-based violence.
Musanhu, a longtime advocate for women and children's rights, challenged the government to make sure their law frameworks support and provide justice to victims of sexual abuse.
She said communities and Zimbabweans need to change how they handle sexual abuse.
"I think we need not to look at law in isolation because there are many other issues and factors that also affect the affective implementation of some of these very good laws ... When you look at some of these things you need to look at community level," said Musanhu.