AT LEAST 220 Zimbabwean minors were raped between January and September 2022, Women’s Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni revealed yesterday as she expressed concern over a spike in child sexual abuse cases.
Nyoni released the chilling statistics at the national commemorations of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV) at Maramba Primary School in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe district, Mashonaland East province.
“Statistics from the police show that during the period of January to September 2022 a total of 435 rape cases were reported and of these, 58% involved minors. This figure is too high to be ignored. In addition a total of 959 sexual violence cases and 1 038 domestic violence cases were reported during the same period,” Nyoni said.
“These are figures of reported cases, but we are fully aware that so many similar cases go unreported all in the name of preserving the family name.”
A nine-year-old girl from Masekesa village in Tsholotsho recently gave birth to a baby boy after being allegedly raped by a close relative.
Another nine-year-old girl from Bindura is reported to be six months pregnant after being raped by two 17-year-old brothers.
Zimbabwe has been home to child marriages and early pregnancies for some time with authorities saying more than a third of girls are married off before the age of 18.
“During the course of the year we have also witnessed very shocking cases of sexual abuse of children. These experiences have pained us, and we need to say a big “no” to gender-based violence (GBV) to preserve and save human life and the future of our children, especially girls,” Nyoni said.
“The recent spike in child sexual abuse cases, some of which result in minors falling pregnant and then dying while giving birth is disturbing. What is more disheartening to note is that in the majority of these cases, parents and guardians who are expected to be protecting these minors, are being found either as perpetrators, or as facilitators of the abuse and even concealing these issues to protect the perpetrators.”
Early this week, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga who also doubles as Health and Child Care minister, said stiffer penalties, which include arresting parents of the victims, are underway.
Speaking at the same event, United Nations (UN) resident and humanitarian co-ordinator Edward Kallon said the UN in collaboration with the European Union, government and other partners will continue to collaborate and invest in uprooting GBV through various interventions.
Globally 81 000 women and girls were killed in 2020, around 47 000 of them (58%) died at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member, which translates to a woman or girl being killed every 11 minutes in their home.
Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre and Network executive director Dorothy Hove said the justice system was failing to protect children.
“What angers me when it comes to the rights and abuses of children is that the justice system is failing us. It’s up to the justice system to just say today we are putting a stop to abuse of children,” Hove said.
“The component of the justice system is that there are legal provisions and sentences that are pre-set for perpetrators against violence and against children but we are saying can they be reviewed to be a bit stiffer because they are not stiff enough to deter them from wanting to commit a crime. Why not consider maybe life sentencing or 40 years with a lot of hard work to accept that what they did was wrong?.”