President Robert Mugabe says he is concerned about weekly police reports showing rising cases of abuse of women and girls in the country.
Officiating at an event to belatedly mark International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8 every year, Mr.Mugabe said stiffer penalties on rapists only will not work.
He said a nationwide campaign involving every sector in society is necessary to fight women and child sexual abuse. This, the president said, will help reduce the abuse of women and girls as it would target people in their communities.
Speaking at the same event, Women’s Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri urged the president to ensure that laws targeting rapists and child abusers are tightened with stiffer penalties being introduced to protect the girl child.
Women’s activists have long complained that cattle rustlers are given stiffer sentences than rapists in Zimbabwe.
"We have seen police coming up with different kinds of operations to combat crime in the country and we are now calling for an operation that will ensure that perpetrators of child and women abuse are given stiffer penalties that will put them in prison for more than 30 years. We want to ensure that our girls and women are safe," said Muchinguri.
Women activists have in the past criticized government for falling to address the rising cases of child and women abuse in the country.
Director and Founder of Tag A Life Foundation, Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, was at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) in Harare on Wednesday with hundreds of other activists and officials to mark the belated women’s day.
Mashayamombe applauded the stance taken by the Ministry of Women's Affairs of involving the president in the Wednesday's women's day commemorations as this will assist in highlighting the plight of young women and girls.
"The president came, he spoke and he committed himself to protecting girls and women but we want action on the ground where we see the justice system taking immediate action against perpetrators, the community working on protecting the girls immediately," said Mashayamombe.