Govt pushes for legislative reforms to fight GBV
THE GOVERNMENT is pushing for legislative reforms to fight violence against women and girls, including the criminalisation of sexual activity with a child under the age of 18, a Cabinet minister has said.
These efforts are aimed at creating a society where women and girls can live free from the fear of violence and exploitation.
Addressing journalists on 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in Harare yesterday, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said by addressing the root causes of gender-based violence and implementing strong legal measures, they were working towards a future where every individual can thrive and enjoy their fundamental rights.
This year’s theme is, “Unite! Invest in Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls,” which emphasises the need for a comprehensive approach by Government, stakeholders and society at large in preventing violence against women and girls.
“Gender-based violence (GBV) is a long-standing social issue in our country that disproportionately affects women and girls, rendering them more susceptible to violence and abuse. My Ministry recognises the gravity of this problem and has implemented programmes to combat it while enhancing access to justice for GBV survivors.
“These programmes are multifaceted, aiming to address GBV comprehensively through prevention, response, and support services. Their goal is to ensure that survivors receive the necessary care and assistance required for their recovery and the rebuilding of their lives. Our approach as a nation, therefore, entails tackling GBV through evidence-based strategies tailored to the specific needs of survivors, emphasising the promotion of gender equality, social justice, and human rights,” Minister Ziyambi said.
He said the conceptualisation of women’s rights, as delineated in the Constitution, revolves around three core principles: the obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill.
Minister Ziyambi said these principles are viewed through the lens of human rights and social justice.
“The Principle of Respect acknowledges the inherent dignity of women, demanding their equal treatment and the eradication of societal norms undermining their status. The Principle of Protection requires laws to shield women from discrimination, abuse, and specific risks like domestic violence. The Principle of fulfillment emphasises not just recognising rights but ensuring resources and opportunities for women to exercise those rights fully.
“Together, these principles strive for gender equality, blending legal entitlements with practical empowerment. This comprehensive framework aims to create a society where women flourish alongside men, emphasising both formal and substantive equality,” he said. Ministe Ziyambi said it was their duty as Government to ensure that women are treated equally and have the same opportunities as men in all aspects of life.
He said they have worked tirelessly to align laws and policies with the Constitution, and to address gender-based violence and discrimination.
The Minister said they have also focused on increasing women’s participation in decision-making processes, creating a more inclusive and equitable society.
“In the same vein, we have also made efforts to address critical issues such as child marriages, gender-based violence, and access to justice for all.
“Through various legislative reforms and awareness campaigns, we have successfully reduced the prevalence of child marriages and improved the legal framework to ensure the safety and well-being of women and girls. Additionally, we have established specialised courts and support services to provide victims of gender-based violence with the necessary resources and assistance to seek justice.
“One of our key achievements is the criminalisation of child marriages through the Marriages Act, which has been a scourge on our society and a violation of the rights of young girls.
“We are also pushing for legislative reforms to fight violence against women and girls, including the criminalisation of sexual activity with a child under the age of 18.
“These efforts are aimed at creating a society where women and girls can live free from the fear of violence and exploitation. By addressing the root causes of gender-based violence and implementing strong legal measures, we are working towards a future where every individual can thrive and enjoy their fundamental rights,” Minister Ziyambi said.
He said they have also conducted public legal awareness campaigns to disseminate the correct interpretation of the Marriages Act, equipping women with knowledge on the protection of their marriage rights.
The Ministry has also provided gender mainstreaming training to actors in the Justice, Law, and Order Sector to sensitise them on gender issues, including gender-based violence, and strengthen access to justice for survivors.
“Furthermore, we have partnered with organisations such as the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) and the Spotlight initiative to amplify the voices of women and girls with disabilities in remote districts, recognising their increased vulnerability and double marginalisation,” said Minister Ziyambi.
“These partnerships have enabled us to reach marginalised communities and ensure that their specific needs and concerns are addressed. Through these collaborations, we have been able to implement targeted interventions and provide support to women and girls with disabilities, empowering them to advocate for their rights and to access the justice they deserve.
“This project has highlighted the problems faced by women and girls with disabilities, including gender-based violence, and reaffirms our commitment to ending all forms of violence against women and girls. By amplifying the voices of marginalised communities, we are fostering inclusivity and promoting equality. Our efforts aim to create a society where every individual, regardless of their abilities, can live a life free from discrimination and violence”.
He said to enhance access to justice, they have expanded the Legal Aid Directorate to all the country’s 10 provinces and commenced decentralisation to districts, with a commitment to opening at least three district offices every year.
These district offices will provide legal assistance and support to individuals including women and girls who may not have had access to these services previously.
Minister Ziymabi said they were working closely with local communities and organisations to raise awareness about legal rights and empower individuals to seek justice for any form of violence or discrimination they may have experienced.