11 April 2006

Zimbabwe: Rape Cases On Rise Countrywide

Harare — RAPE is on the increase countrywide with at least 75 percent of the reported cases in Harare Province being withdrawn for various reasons to protect perpetrators, a senior police officer has said.

Officer commanding Harare Province Senior Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai said some of the cases were not reported to the police because the victims were threatened with death, or feared to lose their breadwinners while others were lured by their assailants into dropping charges with promises of marriage. However, he said there was need for stiffer penalties for both perpetrators and those who influenced victims to withdraw cases.

"As police, we have also noticed that 75 percent of the reported cases are withdrawn with some of the victims being taken as far as the United Kingdom and Mozambique, among other countries," said Snr Ass Comm Veterai. He said this was done to ensure that the perpetrators were not brought to book as there would not be any witnesses to testify in court.

He said police believed that many rape cases went unreported. He urged victims to report so that the culprits would be brought to book. Snr Asst Comm Veterai was speaking at the official opening of a four-day Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) investigators' training workshop in Harare.

At least 26 police officers from Harare Province are attending the workshop, organised by Childline Zimbabwe. "The Victim Friendly Unit is a section in the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) that was born out of the realisation that cases of sexual abuse were on the increase in the country.

It was, therefore, formed to ensure that victims of abuse are properly and professionally handled in a manner that reduces secondary abuse to the victims," said Snr Asst Comm Veterai. He said pilot projects were first established at Mbare and Mzilikazi police stations in 1995. "At its inception, the Victim Friendly Unit dealt mainly with sexual offences against women and children. The unit has now taken on board the investigation of all offences against women and children and the modern-day phenomenon of slavery -- human trafficking -- and gender-based violence," he said.

He said offences against women and ch ildren were on the increase especially in Harare Province. "In 2004, Harare Province dealt with 1 311 sexual offences while 2005 recorded 1 511 cases," he said. In January this year, the province recorded 54 rape cases and 60 cases in February. "This is cause for concern as the majority of these victims are juveniles," he said. In her address at the National Gender-Based Violence workshop held on February 23, 2006, Vice President Joice Mujuru castigated fathers who raped their own children.

Gender-based violence has prompted the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development, in conjunction with Musasa Project, to call for a Domestic Violence Bill. "We, as the Zimbabwe Republic Police, are anxiously waiting for this Bill to pass and become law, for this piece of legislation will be an enabling tool which will greatly enhance our investigating skills in regard to gender-based violence," said Snr Asst Comm Veterai.

He said the ZRP was committed to improving the capabilities of its members through deliberate and sustained training programmes organised by Childline Zimbabwe. Childline Zimbabwe training manager Mr Lovemore Nechibvute said the workshop was aimed at strengthening the capacity of participants to provide effective intervention, and develop diagnostic and treatment tools for children who would have been abused.

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