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Does the law fully protect women from GBV published on 9 April 2019

In an article in the Zimbabwe Electronic Law Journal entitled “Deterrent Sentences of Domestic Violence,” Professor Feltoe explains that the primary objective of the Domestic Violence Act is to offer protection to women who are in danger. He extends this explanation by adding that women are mostly in danger of violence from their spouse and that the perpetuation of such violence may ultimately pose a threat to life.

A day at the various Magistrates Courts around the country will reveal the prevalence of reports of domestic violence within society as people trickle in throughout the day to apply either for a peace or a protection order.

Mass media has developed a pattern in the manner in which issues of gender based violence are recorded. In the midst of all the stories involving the economy or the political status quo of the day lies a report describing yet another threat to the sanctity of human life; more so, women’s lives.

Oftentimes, the stories recorded in the media present more aggravated circumstances which result in severe injury or death. The culture of domestic violence has been intricately weaved into the fabric of society that people are almost desensitised to what may be perceived as “less severe” acts of domestic violence.

It continues to be important for these stories to be reported and recorded and it is more important that there be efficient and sustainable remedies to fully protect society against leading a continuously volatile existence.

As it stands, anybody who is a victim of domestic violence and sexual violence has the right to approach the police station, particularly the specialised division called the victim friend unit or VFU. Aside from being given proper counselling in a safe secluded place, the duty of the police is to investigate and arrest the accused person. This remedy exists in the Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal Code.

It was reported in the Herald published on March 30, 2019, that a police officer, whose duty was to investigate sexual abuse at a local school, allegedly molested 21 young girls. Whereas it is the duty of this officer to ensure safety for these young girls, this duty bearer is found on the opposite side of the law, not only in abuse of his office but in contravention of these girls’ right to human dignity.

What that concludes is that while the law exists to cater for and protect women and girls from gender based violence, the bulk of the change must come from society itself. Women’s rights are human rights and it should be understood that women have the right to have safe access to justice.

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