Source: The Herald
The media have written endless stories on the monster. Police have received many reports. The courts have also been laden with many cases. Many women have lost their lives leaving behind children some as young as two months. Many cases have gone unreported with some being swept under the carpet, the victims suffering in silence.

Placard-holding women have marched on the streets denouncing this monster that has "feasted" on the flesh of many women.

The perpetrators have watched and even laughed at the demonstrating women, who they described as "stupid women being paid by NGOs to destroy their homes".

Many have described it as a monster that has been hibernating in closets of many homes wrecking havoc and causing untold suffering each time it comes out.

Sixteen days of activism for no violence against women and children have been set aside from November 15 to December 10 each year, but despite having them in place something that keeps this beast alive. The problem seems not to go away.

Prisca, a secretary at a local company, has come face to face with this monster and speaks of the nightmares it has brought into her life.

"My husband would take all my money each time I got my salary. He would use it without consulting me and I almost considered quitting my job because I was working for nothing. I could not even afford to buy a pair of underwear and had to wear torn ones.

"He would drive me to work and asked me to prepare packed lunch from home. My life was difficult I almost committed suicide. Each time I told both my and his relatives, they said I should be strong, but

I was hurting inside," she told The Herald last week.

These are such issues that have been worrying stakeholders in this country. What should be done to kill this monster? Who should be involved in the war against this illegal settler in many homes?

The media from the print and electric last week met in Harare to discuss on the role they can play in alleviating the beast.

The meeting was also attended by representatives from SafAids, Musasa Project and the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development.

Ms Lorraine Mbodza, who spoke on behalf of the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development on the situation of violence against women in the country, said the majority of cases on GBV against women go unreported.

She said while Zimbabwe is a signatory to many international conventions which speak against violence on women, and in 2007 passed the domestic violence bill into law implementation is the chief problem.

Ms Mbodza said up to 50 percent of cases reported to the courts were withdrawn, the main cause being the lack of economic empowerment by women.

But sadly, even educated women with good jobs have also become victims of violence that includes emotional, sexual and economic among many others.

"Sentences passed to offenders of domestic violence have not been deterrent enough and this is a cause of concern. People will continue perpetrating violence against women because of this," she said.

Ms Mbodza revealed that Midlands Province had the highest cases of domestic violence in 2010 with 55 percent cases being reported.

Mashonaland came second with 47 percent, Mash Central with 41 percent then Mashonaland West with 40 percent.

Matabeleland South had 35 percent, Masvingo 33 percent while Manicaland had 32 percent. Harare stood at 30 percent, Matabeleland North 26 and Bulawayo sitting at bottom position with 18 percent.

She said as such, her ministry had engaged in the four Ps campaign.

"The four Ps campaign stands for prevention, protection, participation and programmes.

"Domestic violence victims or survivors need integrated services such as legal and medical, counselling services and psycho social support. There is also need for participation of all stakeholders from grassroots levels," she said.

She explained that while the Anti-Domestic Violence Council comprises representatives from the judiciary, religious sectors, women and men's pressure groups and children's rights activists among others and receives support from the United Nations Population Fund, chiefs are not represented.

"Even though chiefs are not represented at national level, they have been playing an important role in their communities.

"We have not left them out in the process, headmen have been counselling families and are an important stakeholder," she explained.

Ms Mbodza added that as a ministry, they have a role to play in the fight against domestic violence but the challenge is that there are no safe houses where abused women can stay.

"This is why women end up withdrawing cases. Organisations like Musasa Project are doing a great job in sheltering women," she added.

But the Anti-Domestic Violence Council in May this year said the non-representation of traditional leaders in the council to provide their expertise in dealing with domestic violence cases has been a thorn in the flesh for the council.

he Anti-Domestic Violence Council was launched in 2009 to spearhead the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. They said chief among the challenges faced is the increase in domestic violence cases, according to chairman of the Anti-Domestic Violence Council, Bishop Trevor Manhanga.

For instance, 2 536 cases have been recorded during the first quarter of this year, compared to 1 940 which were reported the whole of 2008. They also noted the problem of obtaining protection orders as the process is expensive for most women.

"For example, if someone wants to get a protection order, they have to process some papers and this becomes a problem because some victims of DV do not have money. We still have challenges to make the process user friendly for victims," said Bishop Manhanga.

Bishop Manhanga added that representation of chiefs in the council is vital if the problem of DV as a result of customary rites and practices is to be well managed.

"The chiefs will provide wisdom when it comes to the issue of customary rites and practices. This issue is a problem and we cannot run away from including the chiefs in the council," he explained.The courts have also been worried by the implementation of the DVA.

Their feeling is that the implementation of the DVA has been littered with challenges making it difficult for anyone to say it has been a success story. Litigants have opted for protection orders instead of having abusers prosecuted.

The bulky forms and the required details on filling them in as most litigants are illiterate has been another problem in the implementation of the Act. The non-availability of the forms and the general stationery remains a major challenge as the US$5 administrative fee is beyond reach of the general populace.

A visit to the courts revealed that there are no ideal office accommodation to the extent that the clerks of court are forced to carry out interviews in public.

This, many women who were being assisted said was not conducive and is repulsive to victims of domestic violence as they may fail to open up during the interview rendering it unhelpful.

Magistrates and clerks of court have had to assume the role of counsellors when a victim of domestic violence, for example, breaks down during court proceedings.

However, response by society to the DVA has been overwhelming as reflected by the statistics showing an increase in number of litigants. Statistics show that in the year 2009 a total of 2 040 cases were brought before the courts. In 2010 cases totalling 4 906 were also heard. The first quarter of this year saw 451 cases being heard.

Police attended to 1940 cases in 2008, increasing to 3193 in 2009, then skyrocketing to 7628 in 2010. Between January and March this year, 2 536 cases have already been reported to police a high number compared to that of last year during the same period.


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