Police in Bulawayo have bemoaned the surge in cases of gender-based violence in the city amid revelations that an 18-month-old baby was raped recently.
As part of their 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, female police officers under the banner ZRP Bulawayo Province Women Network drawn on Tuesday held a march in the city centre under the theme, ‘All lives matter! End gender-based violence now’.
The march was held in partnership with organisations such as Family Support Trust, Contact Family Counselling Centre and Justice for Children Trust.
Speaking at the event, Acting Bulawayo police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Nomalanga Msebele said it was of concern that GBV cases were increasing.
“We are commemorating 16 days of activism against gender-based violence as we have noticed that we have these cases within us. We have noticed that women wake up in the morning going to the market and leave their children unattended. The youngest case we have in Bulawayo is of a 1 year and six month who was raped, just imagine this, where was the mother of the child. It is our responsibility to protect these children,” said Msebele.
Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the ZRP Bulawayo Province Women Network, Chief Superintendent Lethiwe Mhandu urged parents and guardians to protect their children.
“We have seen children from the age of five up to even 12 years old, they are being raped by their fathers, male relatives and their neighbours. It is our responsibility as parents to protect these children, they are the vulnerable members of the community,” she said.
She added that victims of GBV must report early so that the police can gather evidence.
“As police, we urge communities to monitor and know the whereabouts of their children, report all sexual offences within 72 hours so as to obtain a post-exposure prophylaxis and it also helps the police to gather evidence,” said Chief Superintendent Mhandu.
Chief Superintendent Mhandu also encouraged male GBV victims to report so that the perpetrators are brought to book.
“Gender-based violence, males are affected as well, we have always talked about GBV against women, but we have seen that there are cases against men perpetrated by women, we are saying today, men come and report, we are there, we will not turn you away but we will deal with your cases as we deal with other cases and take them to court.”
Similo Moyo from the Family Support Trust found in Mpilo Hospital also urged people not to hide GBV cases.
“Lets us not fear going to report, your life matters, as a woman don’t hide such cases and look for excuses for them, there are many organisations that can assist you, stand up and report,” said Moyo.