Gender based violence: The legal underpinnings

December 2, 2021

FUNGAI CHIMWAMUROMBE & TAPIWA CHIMANGA

 

The world is celebrating 16 Days against Gender Based Violence which is a welcome development.

In Zimbabwe issues relating to Gender Based Violence were domesticated in our Domestic Violence Act and it is critical for the reader to understand the provisions of the law regarding Gender Based Violence (GBV). Statistically it has been proven that Covid-19 which resulted in many people staying at home had caused a spike in GBV.

The following are critical frequently asked questions which the writer endeavours to tackle in this article.

 

  1. The term domestic violence is commonly used but what is the definition of violence from a GBV standpoint?

GBV includes a range of behaviours which target and are re-enforced by gender, gender-roles, sexuality and gender inequality, moreover it can be experienced by men and women including, rape and sexual assault, female genital mutilation , child marriages, physical punishment, intimate partner violence, trafficking for sex or slavery as well as domestic violence.

In most cases GBV affects women  and girls as they often experience violence from home and in an environment where rigid concepts of gender inequality exist.

Violence towards girls and women is accepted as a social norm in many cultures and these women are held responsible for what happens to them. In terms of Section 2 (Chapter 5:16) of the Domestic Violence Act, Domestic violence is defined to include not only physical and sexual abuse but economic abuse, intimidation and stalking among others.

 

  1. What solutions are there for victims of domestic violence?

It is mandatory and there is no other way of expressing the importance of reporting all cases of sexual gender-based violence against women and children.

Furthermore it is very essential to be attended to by a medical practitioner immediately after it happens or within 72 hours of the occurrence. It should be known that Emergency interventions for survivors of sexual violence are free of charge.

In an effort to reduce GBV anyone who is a victim of violence should speak out and at least send someone a message seeking help and/or report to the police if they are not safe.

This is not the time to be afraid since GBV is also a cause of death.

Musasa project in Zimbabwe deals with issues of violence against women and girls and offers 24 hour help.

According to the Anti-Violence Coordinator in Zimbabwe, normally housed in The Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development and Partners continue to offer Gender-based Violence Services through one stop Centres, Police Victim Friendly Units and safe shelters throughout the country. It should be the main thrust of governments to increase awareness of gender responsive laws and services.

Furthermore the state and all organisations responsible should be provided with resources and support . Services must be effective and include:

Adequate police and justice response

Shelters and counselling centres readily available for victims

State run shelters and counselling centres in order to provide a safe environment for survivors of GBV

Immediate health care response to GBV

Contact number to call for GBV emergencies

 

  1. What role do the police have to play in GBV response?

According to Section 6 of the Act, when a victim reports a domestic violence case to the police, the officers may either “arrest the perpetrator or advise the victim or his/her representative to apply for a protection order.

According to Article 6 of the Domestic Violence Act, a police officer may arrest “without warrant any person whom he or she reasonably suspects has committed or who is threatening to commit an act of domestic violence which, in terms of section 4, constitutes a criminal offence towards a complainant”.

However a police officer shall consider issues like the risk to the safety, health or well-being of the complainant and seriousness of the conduct before conducting an arrest.

The police is responsible for all investigations, docket compilation and to advise the victim on how to obtain shelter and medical treatment.

 

  1. Are remedies against domestic violence available to men as well?

Remedies against domestic violence are available to men. The Domestic Violence Act does not discriminate according to gender and remedies available herein  are available to both women and men.

 

  1. What happens to perpetrators of domestic violence

The law provides for options of fine, imprisonment and community service depending with the severity of the offence.

A protection order can also be obtained against the wrongdoer which to a certain extend prohibits any form of interaction from the perpetrator.

To date various retributive and deterrent forms of sentences have been given by the courts. A debate of whether these sentences are curtailing cases of domestic violence will be for another article.

Fungai Chimwamurombe is a registered legal practitioner and Senior Partner at Chimwamurombe Legal Practice and can be contacted for feedback at fungai@zenaslegalpractice.com and WhatsApp 0772 997 889. Tapiwa is an Associate, email address: tapiwamj@zenaslegalpractice.com

 

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