IN a rather disturbing trend, numbers of women withdrawing rape and Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cases they would have filed with the police or courts have been increasing over the past few years.
By Michael Gwarisa
Even though the reasons behind the huge withdrawals are yet to be ascertained, it is largely believed that societal and family pressures could be the reason behind the huge spike in case being withdrawn by survivors.
Presenting at a Media Sensitisation Workshop on reporting on SGBV in Zimbabwe that was organised by UNICEF, UNFPA in partnership with the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) Director, Abigail Matsvayi said since the year 2012, cases have increasing.
Essentially, when sexual violence occurs, an individual has two options. Its either they are making a criminal report which starts from the police or they are making a claim through the civil process which starts from the magistrate court.
“A survivor can do both. In 2012 alone, there were 13 173 cases that were reported on sexual violence to the police and of those 13 000 cases, 5000 were withdrawn by the survivor at the police station. In other words, half of the cases that have been reported, is withdrawn at the police station. Of that same number, another 1000 is further withdrawn by the survivor again at the court,” said Matsvayi.
She said this has been the trend since 2012 as withdrawn cases have been on an upward trend for some time now.
“The same applies to all the years, if you go to 2016 for instance, 21 755 cases were reported nationwide to the Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) which is the starting point for survivors of violence withing the police system. Of the 21 755 cases reported in 2016, 9000 of the cases were withdrawn at the police by the survivor and another 1 944 were withdrawn at the court.
“The emphasis I am putting in the withdrawals by the survivor is looking at the role Journalist can play in raising awareness because we certainly have a huge problem around withdrawals and when you talk to the women or the survivor, you find that a women reports the violence the first day the violence would have happened but two or three days down the line, the family would have intervened and the women comes back saying they cant get their husbands arrested or the women themselves would have reconsidered and they come and make withdrawals.”
She added there was also another huge problem of lack of reporting of the cases by the women.
Adult Rape Clinic (ARC) Communications Officer, Florida Mapeto said most survivors of rape and SGBV shun sharing their stories with the media due to high sensationalism of stories.
“My recommendations for media is that there is need to have constant education and sensitisation of the media to report on SGBV and rape. Media should also ensure their news reach out to a wider audience especially those in the rural areas. There seem to be concentration of media and coverage in the urban areas more than rural set ups.
“Most people in the rural areas are being left out when it comes to information especially news regarding sexual and gender-based violence. We also urge Journalists to play an advocacy role in their reportage of SGBV issues,” said Florida.
Sensitisation of Journalists is also part of the Spotlight global initiative to have media on board as partners in the dissemination of information around SGBV. Through a partnership with the ZUJ, the UNICEF produced a booklet on Guidelines for Reporting Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Zimbabwe which was authored by Gender and Media personal, Virginia Muwanigwa.