THE Zimbabwe Republic Police’s (ZRP) Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) is currently experiencing resource constraints chief among them being the lack of vehicles to attend to incidences of rape and Gender Based Violence (GBV) as there are nor specific vehicles dedicated for VFU duties.
By Michael Gwarisa
The VFU was established in Zimbabwe in the year 1996 to proactively and reactively police crimes of sexual nature committed against women and children in a manner sensitive to the victim.
Speaking during a Media Sensitization Workshop on reporting of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) that was held in Harare, Chief Superintendent Jessie Banda from the ZRP Victim Friendly Unit said there was need to capacitate the VFU department in order to effectively respond to the rising cases of SGBV and other forms of violence against women and children across the country.
The VFU is one of the departments in the ZRP that gets a lot of support from various partners. However, because of resource constraints, when a vehicle is there, it is going to be used for everything. Due to resource constraints, there are no vehicles that are specifically dedicated for VFU or responding to VFU related issues. For ZRP, it is very difficult to separate resources at a police station.
“The resources at a police station are allocated for the whole station there is no specific vehicle for any specific department. If the station is going to get a vehicle, that vehicle will cater for all, so maybe I think we might need to have more vehicles at a police station because sometimes it becomes even very difficult when there is one vehicle,” said Chief Sup Banda.
She added that VFU duties require more resources as there still need to transport both the perpetrator of an SGBV crime and the victim to court and also during investigations. She however urged victims of SGBV to report their cases to the police and the courts and pursue the cases until justice is served.
Zimbabwe Gender Commission Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Virginia Muwanigwa said there was need to prioritize VFU services in the police force since SGBV is a health emergency.
“The fact that there is no stand alone or a vehicle that is dedicated for SGBV issues probably means the VFU and SGBV may not be seen as a priority. So there is already a gap in terms of resource allocation. From a gender perspective, one of the things I can tell you is that Gender is not seen as a priority so by the same token, I am not sure if the VFU is a priority department in the police,” said Muwanigwa.
Meanwhile, according to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey for 2015, at least one in every 3 women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 & 27 percent of women 15-49 have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. The MICS 2019 data indicate a further increase of GBV in the past years, at 39 percent, with a 4 percent increase as compared to the 2015 ZDHS data.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), GBV is also exacerbated by various contributing factors, such as humanitarian crises, experienced in Zimbabwe in the firm of climate change emergencies (recurrent drought and floods, cyclone Idai) as well as disease outbreaks and the latest COVID19 pandemic.