NINE months ago, what started as an ordinary school day ended tragically for one Primary school pupil Theresa Maropa (Not real name) from Tanda in Nyanga, after she was brutally raped and violated by a daring, unrelenting fellow villager.
By Michael Gwarisa in Nyanga
The man whose identity is yet to be ascertained is married and has his family but indications are that he has since gone into hiding in some unknown location.
By merely glancing at the young girl whose innocence was forcibly taken away from her, one could hardly notice the bulging tummy due to her small body stature. Theresa is already due for her delivery and she has been staying at the Nyanga district hospital for the past 30 days awaiting her day.
Events of the horrific day saw her drop out of school where she was doing Grade 6 as she had to focus on facilitating the paperwork to ensure her case gets the justice it deserves.
For Theresa, the day is one she cannot erase from her memory, as the gory images and trauma from the incident haunt her every single second. To exacerbate her misery, she carries within her a seed, a product of rape, an unwanted child.
“I was raped nine months ago by a man from my village in Tanda here in Nyanga. I was coming from school one day and as we parted ways with my friends, I took a foot path headed home. The man just came out of nowhere and raped me.
“The man has since vanished from the picture after I made a police report. Even his family is no longer around, I just hear he is in Harare now,” narrated Theresa.
She however bemoans the lukewarm approach the police is taking in dealing with her case as no arrest or rumor about the rapist’s whereabouts have been reported. Theresa has been booked at the Nyanga Provincial Hospital waiting mothers’ shelter for the past 30 days.
“I reported the matter to the police with the help of my father, the police are just saying we are still looking for him. I am now nine months pregnant, I don’t even know the age of the man who raped me. This man is from our village but he just disappeared without a trace.”
Despite having been cleared by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to have an abortion, Theresa and her parents failed to raise money ($6) to visit Rusape Hospital where she was supposed to have the abortion done. Abortion in Zimbabwe is allowed only on a few special cases which include rape, incest or when the pregnancy poses a life threat to the mother or child or if there is a disability.
She says she was later assisted by the police who compiled a letter and some coupons to ensure she gets free transport to Rusape. According to health experts, the risks of having an abortion in the second trimester are higher than in the first trimester. After nine weeks, usually surgical abortion is the only option.
“After reporting my case. I applied for clearance to get abortion to the police. However, due to economic hardships, we failed to raise money for bus fare to go to Rusape Hospital on time to have the abortion done.
“I needed $6, by then my pregnancy was already seven months. Upon arrival at the hospital, they told me they could not proceed with the abortion. They advised me to have a scan. We got a letter from the Social Welfare department allowing me to get scanned for free,” said Theresa.
She however hopes to resume her primary level studies soon after giving birth. Her parents are both smallholder farmers who are struggling to make ends meet.
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According to Child Rights organisation, Childline, Zimbabwe received 14 000 cases of child abuse over the past few years and 30 percent of these cases are sexually related.
Meanwhile, Nyanga District Hospital matron, Sister Dorothy Toma said cases of teenage pregnancies were not rampart in the area left for just a few cases. She also said Nyanga District Hospital has not recorded a single maternal death over the past two years.
“We offer maternal services here and we have an average of 350 to 400 deliveries per quarter. For the Antenatal Services (ANC), which we offer here, we see about 160 first ANC bookings and of these, for the below 16 years we rarely see those falling pregnant therefore no bookings for the below 16s.
“We have more from 16 to 14 bookings, however we have a challenge with first bookings as most of them book either in the second trimester or later. Quite a few book in first trimester. We encourage our women to book within the first three months,” said Siter Toma.
The hospital is also a referral hospital for not less than 26 hospitals and serves a community bigger than 30 000 and has 30 midwives.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Assistant Country Representative, Ms Abigail Msemburi told a Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Media Advocacy Workshop that there was need for Zimbabwe to review some of the laws governing access to sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for women. She added that there was need to expand coverage of contraceptives to young girls to ensure the country wont grapple with unwanted pregnancies.
“All countries need to meet the commitment they made in upholding SRHR including what they committed to in the ICPD program action. Some countries are good at signing papers, but fail on implementation.
“They need to review demographic policies to ensure enhancement of reproductive rights and empower individuals to realise their own fertility goals. They also need to do regular check-ups on reproductive rights to ensure the laws, the policies and campaigns are aligned to the SRHR needs,”
Zimbabwe currently has a 10 percent family planning and contraceptive unmet need. Ms Msemburi added that Zimbabwe needed to work on ending child marriages and child sexual abuse and domestic violence especially in rural areas where there is high teen pregnancies uncontrollable fertility rates.