HARARE - The custodial sentence for rapists should be increased to 20 years per count to make sure that would-be offenders are deterred from committing the crime, Women’s Affairs and Community Development minister Oppah Muchinguri said yesterday.
“We do not want to be likened to cattle; we are more worthy than that,” she said.
Muchinguri was speaking after a march by hundreds of women in Harare to commemorate 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence with a special theme on rape and sexual violence.
The march was organised by Musasa Project, Women’s Trust, with support from the British Embassy.
The minister spoke against cultural practices that expose women and children to rape.
She said men should do away with the practice of raping minors in a bid to cure Aids.
Rape cases are increasing at an alarming pace in Zimbabwe, according to statistics released in the local press.
British Ambassador Deborah Bronnert said, “Rape and sexual violence is a global problem and it is as big a problem in Zimbabwe as elsewhere. Newspaper headlines here give some evidence.
“For example, one local newspaper reported that 650 women had been raped in the last 10 months, 330 of these children. And we know that in all countries there is significant under-reporting of rape and other sexual crimes. It is against this background that the UK is working to help combat this issue in Zimbabwe.”
Bronnert said the UK government’s Department for International Development, DFID will strive to help women and girls gain control of their bodies through combating violence against women, including targeting social norms, domestic violence, and providing services for Gender Based Violence (GBV) survivors.
A key example of this support is a £35m DFID grant to the Child Protection Fund, which strengthens justice systems and child protection services for vulnerable children, with a particular focus on adolescent girls.
The initiative seeks to enable survivors to speak out without fear of shame, stigma and victimisation and replace a culture of impunity with one of deterrence.
Perpetrators must be prosecuted and held to account for their crimes, she said.
Bronnert said internationally, countries are coming together to say no to rape.
Memory Kachambwa, director of Women’s Trust, said women should be more assertive with their rights and they should be able to stand up and report perpetrators of violence.
Kachambwa said the fight against gender based violence should be extended to 365 days a year to make sure that enough awareness is raised.