Over 2,500 cases of sexual violence against women and girls were reported to Musasa Project since the start of the Covid-19 induced lockdown period in March this year. This was revealed at an event by Nyasha Mazango, who is programmes co-ordinator with the organisation.
The event, themed, “Strengthening and enhancing accountability in response to sexual gender-based violence during emergencies and pandemics in Zimbabwe”, was held at a hotel in Bulawayo.
In her address, Mazango presented that sexual violence especially in difficult times like pandemics and other emergencies was the worst form of violence because victims were usually blamed for allegedly being the ones who are often at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“We have received over 2 500 cases of sexual violence against women and children between the start of the national lockdown and now,” Mazango said.
“We understand that sexual violence is the worst form of violence because victims are very emotional. It is better to be beaten than being sexually abused.
“There has been a general acceptance that rape and violence done during emergencies is not a priority. For example, if one goes to report a sexual violence case, they will not be taken seriously as they are accused of travelling during a particular emergency.”
Besides the current coronavirus outbreak, some national emergencies that have struck the country over the past few years include political unrests, economic collapse, drought which has forced young girls into anti-social activities.
These include the 2019 Cyclone Idai disaster which left hundreds of locals homeless in the Eastern Highlands. According to Musasa Project, Cyclone Idai and Covid-19 have brought a huge rise in sexual abuse due to the vulnerability of women and girls as their male counterparts usually take advantage of the situation and often get away with it.
Mazango also said there was need for law enforcers to be properly trained to handle such cases.
“Some women end up not reporting sexual abuse cases because responsible offices are not friendly. Some officers are not trained well enough to deal with such cases as they are only trained to be police officers,” she said.