MASHONALAND Central province has been recording alarming rates of rape cases of minor girls and young women, amidst indications that the whole province has been registering not less than three rape cases on a daily basis for the past 12 months.
By Michael Gwarisa in Bindura
The increase in rape cases has largely been attributed to the COVID-19 induced lockdown as minor girls and young women were locked indoors with abusers who are either their close relatives and or their neighbors.
Briefing an International Women’s Day commemorations event in Bindura and representing the Officer Commanding Police Mashonaland Central, Provincial Information Communication Technology Officer, Superintendent Sheila Tungadza said rape cases have been rising at an unprecedented rate and there was need to scale up rape prevention efforts at household level.
The issue that has been worrying us as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is the rise in incidences where minors are being raped. I don’t have statistics for Bindura off hand at the moment but for the whole of Mashonaland Central in general, we record two or three rape cases on a daily bases of minors and perpetrators who are in most cases relatives or neighbors.
“At times, mothers leave their daughters in the hands of trusted male relatives going to church or going to buy wares for sale in neighboring countries. The relatives end up abusing the little ones sexually. I urge all here to leave our children in the care of trusted female relatives more than male relatives because what we are witnessing here is not a good picture,” said Sup Tungadza.
She added that cases where fathers are abusing their daughters were also on the rise in the province.
“Fathers are raping their daughters to an extent whereby the girls are falling pregnant. The mothers at times take time to witness these changes in their daughters and the abuse goes on for long. Mothers and fathers, let us establish relationships with our children. Let’s take time to listen to them everyday after work and listen to their stories.
“By creating an environment whereby children feel free to share with us anything, we stand a chance of noticing early if they would have been abused. The children will also be free to tell us if anyone touches them and does anything inappropriate to them. At times what makes children hide things from parents is that they fear getting beaten or scolded. Let’s not a create an environment whereby children fear us.”
She added that mothers were not forthcoming in reporting their husbands or relatives who would have sexually abused their daughters and the trend has been going up and cases being swept under the carpet. She also said the lockdown period had driven Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases up in the province and she called on married couples to find amicable means of resolving issues to avoid abuse.
Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) Mash Central Assistant Commissioner Mash Emelda Chifodya said they are housing a sizable number of rape perpetrators in their correctional facilities.
“Rape cases have indeed gone up; we are having some young men getting locked up for rape in the province. We are also witnessing elderly men, as old as 80 also getting locked up for rape. They are raping young girls and women.
“Let’s stop rape, we are experiencing high cases of rape here in Bindura. I don’t know maybe it’s the gold or money, I don’t know. As correctional services, our job is to receive those who would have been arrested by the police. However, our correctional facilities are too small and they can no longer accommodate the large numbers of offenders being brought in. We are now getting more sexual and rape offenders and GBV perpetrators being brought in to serve their time,” said Ass Com Chifodya.
Women’s Action Group (WAG) Executive Director, Mrs Edinah Masiyiwa said women and girls who fall pregnant as a result of rape have a right to access safe abortion services as well as post abortal services from health institutions.
“This province has high cases of child marriages. Let children be children, let them grow up and pursue their dreams. Looking at Sexual Gender Based Violence, minor girls and women are being raped and we are not saying anything about it. Let’s speak up and speak out when rape happens.
“Looking at Zimbabwe’s Termination of Pregnancy Act (TOP), it allows termination of pregnancy if the pregnancy is as a result of rape. We are encouraging women and girls to go to health facilities and get assistance in the event that they are sexually abused because it is allowed by law,” said Mrs Masiyiwa
Meanwhile, Ministry of Women Affairs Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development, Bindura District Development Officer, Elizabeth Nkoma said they work with the ZRP Victim Friendly Unit as well as the ZPCS and other government departments in fighting rape and other forms of violence against women and children.
“Our goal is to coordinate activities or empowering women and communities so as to reduce cases of sexual and gender-based violence. I don’t think if communities are empowered enough, there will be a father who will have the courage to rape his own daughter or abuse his wife,” said Mrs Nkoma.
She also bemoaned the high rate of child marriages in the province and said they were working to ensure the prevalence of child marriages is reduced down in not-so-distant future.