Zim women endure harassment: Survey

HARARE - Zimbabwe is the fifth among 10 countries surveyed where women endure public harassment ranging from staring, insults and wolf-whistling to being followed, groped or even raped, a survey by the charity ActionAid UK has revealed.

The report comes at a time when the world is marking 16 Days of Activism Against Violence of Women and Children.

“In Zimbabwe 35,7 percent  of  the women and  girls reported to have experienced sexual harassment  in their life time. At least 44 percent of the  female respondents did nothing when harassed, 35,7 percent of women and girls interviewed expressed  that they did not feel safe at market places,”  the report said. But activists say the figures are still gross underestimates, as many victims remain reluctant to report crimes such as sexual violence for fear their families and communities will shun them.

The Safe Cities report also showed that 44 percent of women did nothing in response to violence while only 3,9 percent made police reports.

Actionaid said the fear of reporting and risks of reporting, due to stigma and a “blame culture”, resulted in lack of justice for victims of violence.

Betty Sithole, programme and advocacy manager, said there are no specific or relevant policies generated by the Gender Equality Office or Women’s Office to ensure the prevention, protection or redress of sexual violence in public spaces.

“Male attitudes towards women in what is a largely patriarchal society have worked against women’s rights and protection from violence in public spaces. This spills over into the lack of respect for a woman’s contribution to the household in terms of domestic chores,” Sithole said