Sexual abuse cases in Zimbabwe are on the rise after the country’s Ministry of Health revealed that more than 900 incidents are reported monthly. In June 2015, the Zimbabwe Situation reported that at least one girl under the age of 16 years was raped every two hours, while almost 400 girls a month reported being sexually abused in 2014.
On Monday, Assistant Health Minister Aldrin Musiiwa launched the government’s initiative to fight sexual abuse in the country.
“It is crucial that when a survivor reports to the health institution first, without a police report, the survivor should never be denied access to health intervention. This is in the best interest of the survivor’s health and not to lose them within the recommended 72 hours,” he advised.
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Musiiwa further revealed that the majority of victims are young children who are in dire need of medical care.
Rise in Early Marriages
Like in many African countries, early marriages are common in Zimbabwe. Local gender activists have often raised concerns over the rising number of young girls getting married off in the country, urging the government to establish laws to make the practice illegal.
Poverty has also forced many young girls to drop out of school and get married or to find work as house maids, which exposes many of them to sexual predators.
According to National AIDS Council Coordinator Vimbia Mdege most of these sexual abuse cases are largely attributed to the breakdown of moral values in the society.
Mdege argues that some of the rapes are committed by men who have been misled into believing that they can be cured of HIV/AIDS if they sleep with young girls.
“But at times, I just believe it’s pure madness on the part of men and the laws are too weak in protecting the girl child,” she added.
The Zimbabwean law defines rape as:
If a male person knowingly has sexual intercourse or anal sexual intercourse with a female person and at the time of the intercourse the female has not consented to it and he knows she has not consented to it or realizes that there is a real risk or possibility that she may not have consented to it, or the female is under the age of 16 years.
A person found guilty of rape in Zimbabwe is liable to life imprisonment.
The country is currently undergoing serious economic turmoil which has forced the government to replace local currency with controversial bond notes.
Cases of severe drought are also being reported and the majority of the population is accusing 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe of destroying the country’s economy.