Covid-19: Rape cases spike, Govt crafting laws to eliminate GBV

The Minister of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Sithembiso Nyoni says there was a spike in rape cases during the Covid-19 induced lockdown with 1274 cases reported in the last quarter of 2020.

Zimbabwe has been under lockdown since March last year following an outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.

Minister Nyoni revealed the statistics while giving a ministerial statement in Parliament, Thursday, on the level of public service delivery related to sexual and gender-based violence during the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister Nyoni said they witnessed an increase in incidents of rape.

To that end, Minister Nyoni said the government is working on legislative frameworks meant to eliminate Gender-Based Violence (GBV) following an increase of rape cases recorded during the Covid-19 induced lockdown period. 

She said the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) victim friendly unit received 1 222 cases of rape in the third quarter of 2020 and in the fourth quarter they received 1 274 cases country wide.

There was also an increase in the number of girls below the age of 17 who were raped, with 900 cases recorded in the period October to December 2020, an increase from 836 recorded cases in the same period in 2019. 

“May I take this opportunity to also update the House on some of the legislative issues which my Ministry is working on which we think will contribute towards prevention. The first one is the Sexual Harassment Bill and the Gender Equality Bill. The Ministry received a set of draft principles for the Sexual Harassment Bill and Gender Equality Bill from the Zimbabwe Gender Commission,” she said.

“The Bills are expected to criminalise the offence of sexual harassment and provide frameworks for gender equality. As part of the law development process, consultations are very critical and the Ministry is at an advanced stage in organising consultative meetings with law-based women’s organizations at national and regional levels.”

She added that they expect to have submitted the principles to the cabinet by May.

“The next one is the Anti Domestic Violence Council now under the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. May I bring to the attention of the House that the Anti Domestic Violence Council is now being administered by the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. It has moved from my Ministry.

“The next one is the mandatory sentence for rape. The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs administers the Criminal Code Reform Act and it is spearheading the amendment of the Act to include mandatory sentencing for sexual offences.The drafting process has begun. However, the drafters have identified that most relevant stakeholders on the proposed law were not consulted, hence there was need for further consultations.”

Minister Nyoni said her ministry is also coordinating a multi-sectoral approach to assist GBV victims receive adequate help.

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