WASHINGTON— Marking the beginning of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, Zimbabwean rights groups are urging government to vigorously lobby against domestic violence, and ensure women’s safety in the forthcoming election cycle.
The internationally-observed gender violence activism period started Sunday and runs through 10 December – a day designated to reflect on human rights.
In a statement Monday, the civic group Youth Forum challenged government to teach “men from an early age that violence against women is bad.”
The Youth Forum also noted that women in Zimbabwe were subjected to sexual violence during elections.
“While there has been some attention to this crime in recent years," the group said, "sexual violence remains a major barrier to women’s safety, political participation and reintegration, as its effects are physically, psychologically, and socially debilitating."
Another rights campaigner, the Election Resource Center, urged police in a Facebook post to “commit to ending violence against women and girls, and ensure that the next election is peaceful, free and fair.”
Violence against women, especially by their male spouses, is reportedly still high in Zimbabwe inspite of the passing of the Domestic Violence Act a few years ago by parliament.
Women’s Affairs Minister Olivia Muchena called on couples to live in harmony and resolve disputes through peaceful and legal means.
Muchena made the statement at the weekend while launching the so-called National Gender Based Violence Strategy which she said will help in the fight against women abuse.
While Muchena urged matrimonial peace in light of the high incidence in spousal abuse, some groups see gender violence as a problem equally perpetrated by politicians seeking office.
The Youth Agenda Trust also landed its voice saying: "We remain greatly concerned by the level of state sponsored violence against women human rights defenders in Zimbabwe.
"Women human rights defenders have been tortured in detention and continue to suffer at the hands of suspected state agents, youth militias and suspected a political party aligned war veterans.”