World Vision, Save the Children Zimbabwe, Plan International Zimbabwe and Sos Children’s Village have released a joint statement condemning the continued, horrendous sexual abuse of young girls in various parts of the country.
By Michael Gwarisa
In a statement, the five agencies said child sexual abuse was a social ill that undermines the quest for equity and quality of life for young girls.
The recent, shocking media reports on pre–teen girls from Tsholotsho and Bindura getting pregnant due to abuse shows that the violation of girls’ rights continues unabated. We applaud the reporting of such cases in order for justice to be served because reporting sexual abuse of girls is critical in bringing perpetrators to account.
“However, it is clear that young girls continue to experience sexual abuse within their homes and communities, which are meant to be safe spaces. Collectively, more still needs to be done to strengthen prevention of sexual abuse and timeous response to the same. The abuse cases have shown that children themselves need to be more empowered to recognise abuse and have more safe spaces as well as more effective mechanisms for child friendly reporting,” said the statement.
Zimbabwe has made significant gains regarding laws to protect girls and women from sexual violence. The five agencies however said full implementation of these laws, today more than ever, was fundamental to guarantee that all children are protected against all forms of abuse and exploitation.
“The gains made so far must not be reversed. Section 81 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20), Act 2013 proclaims that every child has the right to be protected against sexual exploitation with section 19 placing an obligation on the State to adopt reasonable measures to ensure that children are protected against all forms of abuse.
“There are other pieces of legislation that seek to provide care and protection to children such as the Children’s Act (Chapter 5:06); Marriages Act (Chapter 5:15);. Guardianship of Minors Act (Chapter 5:08); Domestic Violence Act (Chapter 5:16) and the National Gender Policy.”
The agencies called on all relevant actors as mandated by the National Case Management System who include government departments at all levels, Non–Governmental Organisations, Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and community–level structures, such as churches and traditional leaders:
1. To invest more in awareness by communities (including children) on the need to report abuse early to break the cycle and receive help. In the case of sexual abuse survivors are able to access different essential services in line with the country’s laws. Such services include psychosocial support, termination of pregnancy and other medical services.
2. To timeously and comprehensively respond to all cases of child sexual abuse. This will strengthen the confidence of communities in the protection system and encourage more reporting of such criminal acts.
3. While we advocate for more focus to be placed on preventing abuse rather than punishing, the extent of harm children, in particular young girls are being subjected to calls for more severe penalties for sex offenders.
4. Focus on men and boys to exercise positive masculinities that uphold and protect the right of to live free from all forms of violence.