SOURCE: The Herald

"I represented someone who had killed his wife over infidelity accusations and at that point, he said he had caught the wife red-handed. In a fit of rage, he started attacking the two. Still, the alleged lover escaped through a window and the woman was beaten to death," said Ms. Julian Mugova, a legal practitioner from Bulawayo, who has been dealing with cases involving Gender Based Violence (GBV).

She has witnessed several cases involving both men and women and has gained various perspectives on the scourge.

Upon representing the accused person, he said he was blinded by rage and anger, felt embarrassed and disrespected in the community he lived in, and could not help but kill his wife.

"Crimes of Passion touches on aspects to do with GBV, which is more prominent in society now. There is a lot of education and information about it, which then brings these issues to the fore, unlike before. The cases are largely socio-economic. Generally, people have the view that GBV is only an affliction against women but the reality is that it is the affliction of any person by their gender.

"The more prevalent one we have seen in Zimbabwe, maybe because it is more widely reported, is violence against women. Very few cases involve men. I did one (case), where I represented a woman accused of having perpetrated violence against a man."

She said due to stereotypes associated with GBV, supposedly being perpetrated on women, there is a lot of murmuring when cases involving men as victims go to court.

"In court, the atmosphere was that of disbelief, to say are we really hearing a matter like this, and with that particular case one of the reasons for the violence was probably because he was not working and he was told by the court to man up and find a job. It was quite unfortunate, he probably had a serious issue but it was not one of violence being perpetrated against him. It goes deeper and touches on one of the other causes of GBV which is mental health issues,.

The legal practitioner said there is a lot less disposable income now than there used to be before, which is a cause of conflict in the home as people are failing to meet or sometimes do not know how to meet their financial obligations. This has been identified as a trigger for conflict in the home, which may degenerate into physical and emotional abuse.

It is estimated that there are more communities today where women are breadwinners and that being the case, some men feel they have been emasculated, and because of societal pressures, the men may feel like the working woman is now a threat.

"Society is quick to say 'usugcinwa ngumfazi' (your wife is now taking care of you) and that can cause strife in the home leading to violence being perpetrated in the home," she said.

Mental wellness is a cause for concern as it is also said to be fuelling domestic violence. Mental health-related issues are on the rise in Zimbabwe and are a real issue that needs to be dealt with expeditiously for people to seek psychiatric help and prevent GBV.

Many times when a person is not well in a community or the home, the victims are usually those around them. Women, by being considered physically weaker, are usually the victims of violence from mentally unwell persons.

"When you go to court, the perpetrators will not know what would have happened, some could be drug-induced, stress-related and some could just be experiencing an imbalance in their bodies, medical inflicted causes and not their own making. Where there are such cases of people with mental illness who have committed offenses against someone, depending on the extent of their mental instability and the nature of the crime, some will get 'convicted' under a special verdict that is given by the courts. Yes, this person is guilty but they have no legal capacity to carry out the offense, that special verdict acquits them," said Ms Mugova.

This, she said, has consequences such as being committed to a prison, where they get psychiatric help and when they are better and ready, they are released back into the community.

Currently, there is a national strategy to prevent and address GBV, it is a 2023-2030 strategy by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development.


The ministry has put together a framework for identifying some of the causes of GBV. It also speaks to what the statistics are.

Ms Mugova said GBV is more prominent against women and girls and it has risen to about 40 percent, 10 percent higher than global statistics.

A look at trends has revealed that there is a decline in moral values and societal values amongst other things that also add to an increase in violence against women and girls.

GBV is a cancer that society has been trying to get rid of over the years, with legislation put in place to assist in finding a panacea to the pandemic.

However, cases of abuse continue to surface even in previously and largely peaceful areas such as rural communities where culture and tradition were believed to be holding the moral fabric together.

Sadly, many of the cases go unreported, a few have been taken to chief courts and the police but a number have died natural deaths.

In Zimbabwe, there are laws in place such as the Domestic Violence Act which provides for protection against various forms of violence, the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act which criminalizes all forms of sexual assault, and the Constitution which guarantees freedom from violence among other rights.

In addition, Zimbabwe is a signatory to various regional and international instruments that promote rights and gender equality such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Violence against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, among others.


According to UNFPA, one in three women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced sexual violence.

About one in four women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15, according to the 2015 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey.

The GBV hotline recorded 4,616 calls in Zimbabwe during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The UNFPA notes that the vulnerability of girls to GBV is heightened by humanitarian crises where violence and discrimination related to the emergency have also exacerbated pre-existing, persistent, gender and social inequalities.

Men and women spent extended periods together during the COVID-19 lockdown as there were travel restrictions, which led to various forms of violence as breadwinners could no longer fend for their families particularly those who were self-employed.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs, Community, Small, and Medium Enterprise Development, in partnership with UN Agencies and CSOs, has established one-stop centers and safe shelters that provide comprehensive GBV services to survivors.

The centers provide counseling, health, police, and legal services to survivors. Safe shelters provide temporary accommodation to survivors and assist survivors in accessing comprehensive GBV services. Survivors stay at the center until a time when it is safe to return home.



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