BY MOSES MATENGA
GOVERNMENT is agonising over spiking teenage pregnancies and marriages during Covid-19 lockdowns amid shocking revelations that a total of 7 000 girls were affected during the stringent January-February lockdown.
According to a ministerial statement presented to Parliament last week by Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development minister Sithembiso Nyoni on the level of public service delivery related to sexual and gender-based violence during the Covid-19 outbreak, a total of 4 959 school girls fell pregnant while 1 774, young girls were forced into marriages.
“This means that nearly 5 000 of our girls risk losing their educational opportunity if they do not pursue re-admission,” Nyoni said.
“Most worrying is the 1 774 who are in matrimonial unions before their 18th birthday.
“They have lost opportunities and have also become vulnerable to other forms of violence and assault, which include economic and emotional abuse.”
The cases, she said, were recorded from January to February 5, 2021.
Nyoni described the period as a “time of great anxiety, uncertainty and stress for many as normal life routines are changed”.
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“Women and girls, who constitute the greater percentage of GBV survivors, find themselves trapped in homes with abusive husbands, fathers, brothers and family members with limited access to protection and support services,” she added.
Nyoni, in her report, also said that at least 1 222 cases of rape were reported to the police Victim Friendly Unit in the third quarter of 2020 while 1 274 were received in the fourth quarter countrywide.
She said her ministry was committed to scaling up awareness in communities to encourage victims to report cases.
“The community has to know that it is criminal to withhold such information as well as failure to report abuse and rape of minors,” she said.
Mashonaland Central recorded the highest number of victims with 4 475 teenage pregnancies and 1 436 child marriages with Harare recording zero cases on both fronts.
Mashonaland West had 27 cases of child marriages and 85 child marriages while Masvingo had 61 and 49 respectively.
In Matabeleland South, 290 children were impregnated while 65 were forced into marriages.