GWERU: Stakeholders mandated to deal with gender based violence in the midlands province say the national lockdown restrictions resulted in most victims of gender based violence failing to report such cases with numbers dipping by almost half to those recorded last year.
It emerged during a fact finding mission by the Parliamentary portfolio committee on women affairs, gender, community and small to medium enterprises development that only 587 survivors of gender based violence reported their cases to the one stop centre compared to over 1000 who reported at the centre last year.
Stakeholders who work at the centre attributed the low numbers to the rigorous sessions the victims went through at the hands of the law enforcement agents though they tried to improvise by taking the centre to the people.
“Victims of rape are mostly sensitive people. They are not at liberty to narrate their ordeal to everyone. The lockdown restrictions made it difficult to sell their story to some police officers and as such this resulted in some going back home before they reach our centre for recourse.
“Some ended up contracting STIs and went quiet about their ordeal even if they were victims of rape,” Gweru one stop centre administrator, Nyarai Mubaiwa.
“We tried to reach out to communities through setting up mobile one stop centres. We also set up such centres at the courts across the provinces to educate people about their legal rights in respect to GBV.
“However, in communities, it was a bit difficult to gather people as the maximum number used to be 50 and this meant that where we used to have 150 people at once we needed three sessions to cover such,” added Gweru one stop centre legal officer Clarah Chikohora.
Responding to the revelations, Chairperson of the Women affairs committee Chido Madiwa said her team was touched by the emerging and unresolved lockdown ordeals and added that there is also need for more safe houses to shelter victims from further abuse.
“The situation is not peculiar to Gweru alone and it is sad. The script is also on the need for safe houses. The number of people who require such shelter is growing by the passing of each day and I must say there is need for prioritisation of opening such spaces.
“What we witnessed at Msasa project is disheartening as such victims are eventually forced to go back to face the perpetrators of violence and end up dying in the hands of such people,” Madiwa said.
Calls for the decentralisation of One stop centres to districts are growing loud with the Midlands province now in the process of constructing another centre in Kwekwe in line with government’s vision of bringing health and justice to the people’s doorsteps.