By Robert Tapfumaneyi
When the Domestic Violence Act came into being in 2007 it was held as one of the most progressive laws for the advancement of women in the fight against domestic violence in Zimbabwe.
However, five years later progress is slow.
Police, speaking at a meeting organised by different communities such as Epworth, Chitungwiza and Mutoko, say it has become difficult for them to purse domestic violence cases as many are withdrawn by women before they go to court.
“We have failed to get a conviction of a single case as most women come the following morning pleading with us not to take their husbands or boyfriends to court, for various reasons such as ‘Who will look after me if my husband is convicted?’,” a police officer from Epworth said.
The economic meltdown of the Zimbabwean economy has affected many women who are now financially dependent on their husbands as the sole breadwinner. This leaves some vulnerable to abuse.
The situation is not helped by the view taken by some police officials that domestic violence is a ‘private’ matter. Sometimes, this attitude will see law enforcement agents breach the Domestic Violence Act as they frequently decline to listen to complaints, investigate cases or ensure women are aware of the legal remedies at their disposal.
Women face many obstacles in filing reports of rape in Zimbabwe. Many police stations are not prepared to handle properly the investigation of such cases. In addition, women are reluctant to file reports because of the social stigma of rape.
Nakai Nengomasha of Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forums, which organised the event, said the forums aim to educate communities about the gender issues that affect them daily.
“Members of the communities are responding well although quite a lot still needs to be done as we move towards achieving the millennium development goals in Zimbabwe. Our slogan is ‘men of quality are not afraid of equality.’”
One major issue to come out of the debate was about the custom of the ‘lobola’, a dowry paid by the bridegroom to the father of the bride. This has been found to play a significant role in perpetuating the ill treatment of women in Zimbabwe as a man who has ‘bought’ his wife may think he can treat her as he pleases.