AFTER being confronted by her husband Tobias on countless times over her refusal to return to her parents’ home, Loveness (Not real Names) found herself at the receiving end of unrelenting abuse at the hands of her husband of four years.
By Michael Gwarisa
As the argument ensued one day, Tobias took an axe and without hesitation struck his wife three times on the head before fleeing the scene. By taking a glance at the oozing blood and the grisly scene of her bludgeoned head, one could conclude that Loveness would not survive the attack.
Knowing how ferocious and violent her husband was, other villagers could not offer much help but could only stare at the semi lifeless body of Loveness lying on the ground, blood all over. Upon gaining consciousness after a few minutes, Loveness gathered herself up, staggered a bit and dragged herself to find help.
Fortunately for her, she ended up at the doorstep of a Gender Based Violence (GBV) shelter in her village, Hauna in Mutasa where she got assistance before being rushed to the hospital for professional medical care.
Loveness’s case is but a drop in the ocean of the numerous gender and domestic related violence being perpetrated against women and children in Zimbabwe. According to the State of the World Population report 2019 (SWP19), major gaps remain in preventing and responding to gender-based violence.
The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) is marking 25 years of existence in 2019 and the conference is set to be held in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference is going to discuss amongst other things, progress that has been made in eradicating GBV and availing equal opportunities to both men and women.
In Zimbabwe however, it was documented by the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey 2010-2011 that 42% of women in Zimbabwe have either experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence or both at the same time in their lives.
Mutasa district in Manicaland has a high prevalence of GBV cases owing to a plethora of factors which range from religion, culture and the absence of a well-resourced police force to track and bring offenders to book.
According to Ms Nyasha Gachange, the Shelter Manager at the Mutasa GBV Centre, more women have been coming forward to report various cases of GBV at the centre ever since they opened doors to the public in 2017.
The shelter offers assistance to all cases of Gender Based Violence. Depending on the nature of the case, clients may be admitted or offered walk in services; male clients are also assisted, but only access walk in services as they cannot be accommodated together with women survivors.
“At the beginning survivor inflow was low, but improved gradually owing to stakeholder sensitization and community engagement by FACT officers and Behavioural change facilitators,” said Ms Gachange.
The Shelter was established by the Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) through funding from UNFPA and collaboration with the key government ministries. The services ensure that female survivors and their children are treated with respect and dignity and are linked up to other services to ensure they get holistic assistance and support.
In 2018, a total of 108 clients accessed services from the Shelter. Of this figure 60 clients were admitted at the shelter and 56 were reintegrated. The shelter assisted a total of 56 walk in clients, 8 of these were male (an indication that some cultural norms that restrict men from seeking for help when they need it are beginning to change.
“There is an increase in the number of survivors accessing shelter services, even for males. This is an indication that more women are opening up, although quite a number are still discouraged by the delay in completion of cases. Moreover, there are still strong ideologies embedded in the minds of women and some men that act as deterrent factors in GBV survivors accessing shelter services,” she said.
However, Ms Gachange bemoaned the failure by the judiciary system to deal with cases of GBV in Mutasa and other surrounding areas.
“Challenges being faced include delays in summoning witnesses to court after the initial trial discourages some survivors as they may assume that justice has been denied or in the case of minors, they may have forgotten important facts.
“Postponement of cases sometimes discourages clients and even witnesses who have to give reliable information as they may not continue to have the resources or the time to keep coming to court. Some perpetrators may also take advantage of postponements to flee especially due to the proximity of the district to Mozambique or threaten or persuade clients not to pursue justice.”
She also said some perpetrators of Gender Based Violence who are granted bail or pardoned return to their communities and commit the same offences especially in instances of rape and physical abuse, this traumatizes the victims who may not report cases as they may no longer have faith in the justice system.