24 August 2012

Zimbabwe: DV 'A Human Rights Issue'


Statistics indicate that domestic violence is a major problem in Zimbabwe with a total of 3 141 domestic violence cases already reported in the first quarter of 2012. Government in 2007 set up the Anti-Domestic Violence Council.

Deputy Features Editor Roselyne Sachiti (RS) spoke with the Anti-Domestic Violence Council chairperson Mr Kelvin Hazangwi (KH) to find what the council has been doing to lower the statistics.

Why was the Anti-Domestic Violence Council (ADVC) set up?

The Anti-Domestic Violence Council was set up in terms of Section 16 of the Domestic Violence Act (Chapter 5:16) to ensure the effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. In line with the regulations, the Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development appointed members of the council to facilitate the implementation of the Act. The Domestic Violence Act makes provision for the protection and relief of victims of domestic violence.

What is the composition of the Anti-Domestic Violence Council and is it well represented?

The Anti-Domestic Violence Council is currently composed of 12 members representing key Government institutions and civil society organisations that work directly on issues of domestic violence. I am the chairperson of the council and my deputy is Sylvia Chirawu, the National Co-ordinator for Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA).

Other members are Margaret Nyandoro, who represents the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Caroline Matizha (Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development), Assistant Commissioner Isabella Sergio (Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit), Agnes Mutowo (Ministry of Labour and Social Services), Bigboy Mashayamombe (Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture), Magistrate Brighton Pabwe (Judiciary Services Commission, Women's Action Group director Edinah Masiyiwa, Musasa director Netty Musanhu, Bishop Trevor Manhanga and Petronella Nyamapfene of Justice for Children Trust. A representative from the Chief's Council is yet to be appointed.

Briefly explain the functions of the Anti-Domestic Violence Council?

The functions of the council are to keep under constant review the problem of domestic violence in Zimbabwe. We also take steps to disseminate information and increase the awareness of the public on issues of domestic violence.

We want to promote research into the problem of domestic violence, promote the provision of services necessary to deal with all aspects of domestic violence and monitor their effectiveness.

We also aim to monitor the application and enforcement of this Act and any other law relevant to issues of domestic violence. We have also realised the need to promote the establishment of safe houses for the purpose of sheltering the victims of domestic violence, including their children and dependants, pending the outcome of court proceedings under this Act.

We will also promote the provision of support services for complainants where the respondent who was the source of support for the complainant and her or his dependants has been imprisoned.

In short, we will do anything necessary for the effective implementation of this Act.

What are the major challenges and how are you addressing them?

Limited resources have been a major challenge for the council for it to effectively execute its role. However, the council has made remarkable efforts through its resource mobilisation strategy to fund-raise. Currently, we are engaging with various development partners including the corporate world to ensure that we get adequate resources to address the problem of domestic violence in Zimbabwe. We are also currently working closely with the Ministry of Women Affairs towards the establishment of a Statutory Fund for Domestic Violence.

What is the current state of domestic violence in Zimbabwe and regionally?

Through our regular media monitoring we have noted a remarkable increase in reported cases of domestic violence.

The council in collaboration with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development has developed a monitoring tool for domestic violence hence we receive monthly reports from key partners on domestic violence cases that they would have handled. For example, the ZRP Victim Friendly Unit monthly reports indicate that domestic violence cases have increased remarkably.

According to ZRP monthly reports 1 940 cases were reported in 2008, a total of 3 193 in 2009, while 7 628 were reported in 2010. In 2011, 10 351 cases were reported while we have already received 3 141 during the first quarter of 2012.

Who is mostly affected by domestic violence and at what age?According to the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey 2010 to 2011, 30 percent of women have experienced physical violence since they were 15 and 57 percent of women who have experience violence since the age of 15 have reported their current husband as the perpetrator.

Domestic violence is not only a life-threatening issue but a human rights issue that calls for comprehensive prevention and response interventions. To address the problem, Zimbabwe is signatory to various international instruments that seek to promote gender equality and equity and these include the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Sadc Protocol on Gender. The Domestic Violence Act was enacted in 2007 to provide for protection and relief to victims of domestic violence.

What domestic violence initiatives did you undertake as a council between 2009 and 2011?

The first Anti-Domestic Violence Council Strategic Plan covered the period 2009 to 2011. During this period, a number of significant activities regarding domestic violence took place, some of them as a result of implementation of the ADVC strategic plan and others as a result of initiatives undertaken by other players and stakeholders.

A number of initiatives targeted the dissemination of information and raising awareness on domestic violence, were mounted by various players and stakeholders.

In 2009, the ADVC council recommended that the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development conduct a national mapping exercise of domestic violence service providers. This exercise resulted in the development of a draft domestic violence service provider's directory, which will soon be disseminated.

The Ministry of Women Affairs Gender and Community Development also launched the 4Ps campaign as part of the 365 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. The campaign was mounted partly in response to escalating cases of domestic violence as well as a way of operationalising the Domestic Violence Act.

What changes has the 4Ps campaign brought in terms of attitudes when it comes to domestic violence both in urban and rural areas?

We would like to commend the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development for embarking on the 4Ps campaign on zero tolerance to domestic violence.

The campaign, which focuses on Prevention, Protection, Programmes and Participation has been rolled out in all the provinces with the objective to sensitise communities on the negative effects of domestic violence, discuss the root causes of domestic violence, how the law and traditional mediation structures provides for protection to victims of domestic violence. The campaign encourages community members and leaders to change attitudes that perpetuate domestic violence. We believe the increased reporting amongst communities is a result of increased awareness on domestic violence, which come as a result of such campaigns.

Has the handling of DV cases by the judiciary been satisfactory?

All courts now have personnel who have been assigned to deal with domestic violence issues and the number of domestic violence cases they handled has increased significantly, doubling in the period 2009 to 2010.

A total of 2 040 cases were heard in 2009, while 4 906 came forward in 2010 and 2 665 during the first quarter of 2011.

The courts, however, are facing some challenges in implementing the DVA and these include inadequate training of court personnel, bulky nature of protection order forms (many litigants illiterate) and the non-availability of forms and general stationery. The administrative fee of US$5 is often difficult to raise.

Can you shed light on how you have been monitoring the application of the DV Act?

Some progress has been made in the development of platforms for monitoring domestic violence. The council through its multi-sectoral representation has been able to provide statistics of cases handled under the Domestic Violence Act from the courts and police.

The ministry has been developing a database to monitor patterns and trends on gender-based violence including domestic violence.

The database will result in a monitoring and evaluation framework of gender-based violence nationwide and will be installed in all provincial offices.

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