Women rights organisations in Bulawayo have condemned the alleged physical abuse of women and girls during the ongoing army crackdown on civilians in the city.
Reports of widespread attacks on civilians by members of the army and police have received international condemnation, with women and girls said to have been caught up in the melee.
This follows the #ZimbabweShutDown protests which began on January 14, with 12 people said to have died while over 800 people were arrested while thousands were brutalised the security forces in an apparent response to the looting and destruction of property during the protests.
There are also unconfirmed reports of soldiers raping women.
Women Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) spokesperson Bridget Ndlovu said the violation of women and girls was unconstitutional.
“The violation of women and girls’ constitutional rights is uncalled for and those behind these unscrupulous acts should be dealt with in a court of law,” she said.
“The negative impact of rape on the victims’ physical, reproductive and, psycho-social well being is well documented. Physical trauma resulting from rape can affect any part of the victim’s body but trauma involving the genital organs is the most frequently encountered”.
Ndlovu also called on the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the abuses.
“We call on the government to investigate and prosecute members of the “security forces” who committed these atrocious sexual assaults so as to reverse the atmosphere of impunity that fosters such acts,” she said.
“We challenge the government to quickly launch an investigation into these reports as a matter of urgency”.
Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyers Association Director Abigail Matsvayi also condoned the violence, calling for an investigation on the abuses.
“We call for all cases to be investigated so as to establish what transpired. Perpetrators should also be brought to book”.
She, however, said no cases have been reported to them as yet and they are eager to assist the survivors if they come forward and report.
Emthonjeni Women’s Forum Programmes Manager, Melissa Ndlovu, concurred saying the military was abusing their power and authority.
She said no victim has come forward to report any incidents of physical or sexual abuse because of fear.
“Currently no-one has come forward probably due to the stigma attached to rape. We, however, assist the survivors with psycho-social support,” said Ndlovu
Soldiers in Bulawayo are going around suburbs at night assaulting residents, with a recent case of soldiers assaulting residents in Queens Park East.