Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), in its various forms, is widespread in communities in Zimbabwe, cutting across class, race, age and religion.
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There are many societies that still seem to condone rather than discourage SGBV.
In some cultures, assaulting a spouse is so common that it appears to be an acceptable form of chastising women.
Some societies, however, clearly abhor violence by men to women whom they are supposed to protect.
“The belief that men are superior to women, further encourages SGBV. Societies with such beliefs think that women are lesser species who can be abused at will,” said sociologist Yotamu Chirwa.
It is during the crop selling season when cases of SGBV increase in most rural communities.
Over the years, reports have been coming from rural areas involving incidents of men pocketing all proceeds from crop sales, culminating in domestic violence.
While urban areas have their fair share of sexual abuses against women, it is in rural areas that women and girls have experienced demeaning acts of abuse such as rape and domestic violence.
“In most instances, the cases are swept under the carpet and not reported to the police,” Chirwa said.
At least 68% of women in Zimbabwe have suffered from gender-based violence. Statistics also say 75% of these women are raped by their husbands, but are afraid to report the cases to the police.
In rural areas patriarchy is the order of the day, resulting in women being looked down upon and their views not being considered.
Child activist Nyari Mashayamombe said most women in rural areas tended to have a low self-esteem and are afraid to stand up for their rights.
“There are so many cases of sexual abuse against women and girls that go unreported in rural areas because some societies consider it normal,” she said.
“Very few women and girls in rural areas who are survivors of physical or sexual violence seek legal, medical or social support services.”
The Standard Style also establsihed that disclosure of SGBV to family, friends, or neighbours was low in rural areas — the majority of SGBV survivors don’t tell anyone.
Shortage of SBGV clinics and police stations are some of the reasons why victims fail to report.
In remote communities, victims have to walk long distances to seek medical and legal assistance.
There are also cases where victims are raped by those who are supposed to safeguard them.
There are many cases where law enforcement agents force themselves on women or victims of rape. Two years ago a police officer at Bikita Police Station allegedly pounced on a girl who had come to make a report against her father who had allegedly raped her.
Survivors of SGBV should be aware of the fact that rape should be reported within 72 hours so as to get Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
When one is exposed to the risk of contracting HIV through contact with an HIV-positive person, the risk of HIV infection can be reduced by means of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.
Awareness among women enables them to resist violence and this would include knowledge that violence against them is illegal, immoral and unacceptable.
“Rural women should also be empowered to understand the avenues and institutions through which one can seek redress in case of SGBV,” said Mashayamombe.
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