By Memory Chamisa
THE 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence have become an annual event without much success as the social ill is taking a huge toll on the future of humanity, especially the girl child.
The past 11 months have witnessed shocking and heart-breaking cases of gender-based violence and child sexual exploitation, with a 9-year-old girl from Tsholotsho giving birth last week, while an eight-year-old from Bindura is pregnant.
Figures from United Nations show that one in three women and one in five men experience physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner.
Equally shocking are the findings of a Zimbabwe Gender Commission inquiry into gender-based violence and child sexual exploitation, triggered by the 2021 Anna Machaya case of rape and death while the 14-year-old was giving birth at a shrine in Manicaland Province.
“The inquiry established that there are common and general causes of child marriages and child exploitation that were identified in all the country’s ten provinces,” said Commissioner Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission.
“These include cultural and religious norms which undervalue girls, particularly those with disabilities, poverty and lack of economic opportunities, lack of extra-curricular activities and abolishment of corporal punishment. Gold panning activities in some parts of the country are also a driver of child sexual exploitation and child marriage.”
The results were collaborated by organisations that deal with these cases daily, amid concurrence that the home is no longer safe for children.
“The home has now become a horrible space for children, especially girls. People who are supposed to protect them are the perpetrators and one wonders where a safe space is,” said Ekenia Chifamba the director of Shamwari yeMwanasikana.
Despite the government putting in place policies to protect women and children, experts believe there is still a need for stringent measures and punitive laws to ensure everyone is protected.