In a Press Statement on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) urged state and non-state actors to unite and invest efforts and resources to prevent violence against women and girls.

The ZHRC joins the rest of the world in the annual campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

ZHRC is the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) as well as the Administrative Justice Institution (Public Protector) for Zimbabwe with a constitutional mandate of protecting, promoting and enforcing fundamental human rights, freedoms and administrative justice. 

As the National Human Rights Institution for the country, the ZHRC is committed to initiatives that focus on protecting, promoting and enforcing human rights principles and values and promoting concrete actions towards combating all forms of human rights violation including gender-based violence (GBV).

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence is an annual event which serves as a strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

The theme of this year’s campaign, “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls,” underscores the need for comprehensive and sustained efforts to prevent and respond to gender based violence.

The Commission acknowledges the efforts being made by the Government of Zimbabwe and other stakeholders towards preventing gender-based violence. 

Notable efforts include the enabling legal environment which is characterised by constitutional provisions and supporting legislation to curb GBV. Section 52 (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that “Every person has the right to bodily and psychological integrity which includes the right to freedom from all forms of violence from public or private sources”.

Legislation with provisions to prevent GBV includes the Domestic Violence Act [Chapter 5:16], and the Marriages Act [Chapter 5:15]. Zimbabwe is a signatory to international and regional human rights frameworks that seek to curb GBV.

These include among others, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and the SADC Gender Protocol.

The Government of Zimbabwe in collaboration with development partners has established infrastructure and services that include safe houses for victims of GBV, hotlines and awareness programmes.  

Despite these commitments, GBV remains a persistent societal issue in Zimbabwe that affects people of all ages, backgrounds, and identities in both physical and online spaces.

Harmful practices such as child marriages, sexual abuse and politically motivated gender-based violence are pervasive.  It is estimated that about two in five women in Zimbabwe reported having experienced either physical or sexual violence whilst one in 10 reported having experienced both.

Approximately one in three (33%) of women aged 20-24 were first married or in marital union before 18 years.

Institutions that support victims are not easily accessible by people in remote communities. The root causes of GBV are varied.

These include inequality, patriarchy, harmful gender norms and the rampant increase in societal challenges such as drug and substance abuse which perpetuate GBV.

The deteriorating economic conditions significantly contributes to a surge in cases of GBV as women are forced to stay in abusive relationships for economic gains.

The year 2023 being an election year in Zimbabwe has witnessed an increase in different types of violence that range from intimidation, physical and cyber violence. 

The ZHRC acknowledges that raising awareness on GBV is only the first step; actual progress requires accountability at every level of society.

The Commission takes a programmatic approach to protect, promote, and enforce human rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

The ZHRC has also established the Gender Equality and Women’s Rights Thematic Working Group (TWG) to contribute to advancement of programmes on gender equality and women’s rights.

In addition, the Commission conducts human rights education, promotion, research and advocacy; complaints handling and investigations; monitoring and inspections, of human rights and freedoms as well as administrative justice. 

The ZHRC recognises the connection between human rights and GBV and reiterates on the need for diverse strategies that address both the immediate consequences of violence and the underlying systemic factors that perpetuate it.

The Commission urges state and non-state actors to unite and invest more efforts and resources in strengthening institutional interventions at all levels to address and prevent violence against women and girls.

All reported cases of politically motivated and gender-based violence must be investigated with perpetrators being brought to book to curb all forms of human rights abuses including GBV. 

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