UNICEF Zim Donates DNA Analysis Equipment To ZRP To Assist Rape Victims

IN  a bid to enhance the delivery of justice to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence through DNA evidence, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has handed over DNA analysis/forensic equipment to boosts capacity for credible evidence when handling Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cases.
By Michael Gwarisa
The equipment was handed over under the Spotlight Initiative after noting that lack of evidence has been hampering justice and a barrier for survivors to report cases of sexual violence. According to UNICEF, Sexual and gender-based violence offenses are often committed in private and without any witnesses and the lack of evidence hampers the functionality of the justice system, hence the need for advanced forensic and DNA analysis.
In a statement, UNICEF said, “Building on the launch of the High-Level Political Compact (HLPC) on Ending Gender-based Violence and Harmful Practices by the Government of Zimbabwe, we can now mark a key milestone in the criminal justice system in Zimbabwe, with the launching of a new state-of-the-art forensics laboratory at Zimbabwe Republic Police.

 

The HLPC is a commitment by the Government of Zimbabwe to leverage the efforts made under the Spotlight Initiative and ensure access to timely and quality services, including forensics, for all survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. The new laboratory, made possible through UNICEF under the Spotlight Initiative, will enable the use of forensic evidence in the trial of sexual and gender-based violence cases. The Spotlight Initiative supported by the European Union and implemented by several UN agencies, including UNICEF is dedicated to eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls while ensuring justice to survivors.”

The facility will operationalize the national protocols on sexual offences in Zimbabwe that require survivors to immediately undergo a medical examination where a health professional collects relevant samples/evidence associated with the rape or sexual violation incidence.

“With this new state-of-the-art capacity, the Zimbabwe Republic Police forensic laboratory can now swiftly inspect these samples, analyse them, and present their findings to the National Prosecuting Authority as evidence that will considerably increase the conviction rate of perpetrators. Achieving this milestone would not have been possible without the collaborative work of the Zimbabwe Republic Police in creating conducive lab spaces within their forensic laboratory and dedicating their team of highly qualified forensic scientists to this all-important task.”

According to statistics, only 4 per cent of women/girls will report sexual violation to the police due to stigma or fear. Rape and sexual violence are especially under-reported. An alarmingly high proportion (43 per cent) of adolescent girls in Zimbabwe, aged between 13-17 years reported that their first incident of sexual intercourse was unwanted and unplanned. This has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to an increase in domestic violence and child marriages.

“The national GBV Hotline, run by Musasa – a partner dealing with issues of violence against women and girls and providing relief to survivors of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) has recorded more than 6,800 GBV related calls from the beginning of the lockdown on 30 March 2020 until the end of December 2020, with an overall average increase of over 40 per cent compared to the pre-lockdown trends.”

About 94 per cent of the calls are from women. Child marriages remain a challenge with 33.7 per cent of girls aged under 18 married compared to 2 per cent of boys who are married before reaching the age of 18 years. Sexual and gender-based violence offences are often committed in private and without any witnesses. The lack of evidence hampers the functionality of the justice system and demotivates survivors to report these cases. Justice for victims of violence and particularly sexual and gender-based violence has remained allusive, and this is worse for children and adolescents, especially girls.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014 indicates that one in three women and girls will experience physical, sexual or gender-based violence (SGBV) in their lifetime.

UNICEF said they will continue to support the Government of Zimbabwe in its efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls and work closely with the Zimbabwe Republic Police to deliver justice to survivors.

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