The current Covid-19 crisis, to which authorities have responded with Lockdown measures, have led to an increase in incidence of adult rape in Zimbabwean homes.
Review & Mail ‘s Tichaona Zindoga (TZ) spoke with Memory Kadau (MK) of the Adult Rape Clinic to understand the phenomenon.
TZ: What new information have you gained regarding Adult Rape during the Covid-19 Lockdown in Zimbabwe since March 2020?
MK: The lockdown in Zimbabwe has exacerbated and magnified the rape crisis whilst making the provision of services to Rape survivors much more challenging.
Our statistics indicate that more 70% of survivors of sexual violence are raped by known people.
In our African context where many families stay together confinement for a long period increases the risk to abuse. In the case where both perpetrator and survivor are staying together a survivor may have to seek permission from the abuser to access services.
We have also noted that lockdown measures may likely make difficult for survivors to access services or run away due to restricted movement and family influence if perpetrator is a relative.
TZ: Does this information show any pattern, and how does this new information throw new light on the phenomenon of adult rape in Zimbabwe?
MK: In the lockdown situation it is extremely difficult to produce meaningful data patterns because the lockdown itself makes all reporting of SGBV much more difficult – to Police, and to Health services. We have clear reports of survivors being sent back home by Police after explaining that they need to go to the hospital urgently, to receive post-rape services, and these reports are likely to be the tip of the iceberg.
International data strongly suggests that Lockdown situations are associated with a surge in Gender Based Violence of all sorts including SGBV and Child Sexual Abuse.
We need to start engaging at family level on issues of consent and bodily autonomy including in marital set up where the issue of rape is hardly talked about and controversial.
TZ: What have you done to assist victims and rape-vulnerable and exposed persons and groups?
MK: ARC has been ramping up its information delivery and advocacy work, using all modalities available, including Radio, TV, and Social Media, so that communities and individuals know that Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is a crime, and that services for survivors are available and free! In spite of considerable challenges ARC has continued to provide physical first line emergency essential Medico-legal services to Sexual Assault survivors who present within the first 72 hours after the assault took place, so that HIV seroconversion and unwanted pregnancies can be prevented.
In addition, during this lockdown period ARC counselling services are available online and through phone support using voice call, text messages or Whats App.
We are working closely with the Yellow Bus Trust and House of Smile providing Sexual, Reproductive Health and Sexual and Gender Based Violence and Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (SRH/SGBV) services to adolescents and youth working and living on the streets. These services include comprehensive sexual health information, distribution of condoms, HIV testing, medical examination, and provision of Post Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV and STI infections.
TZ: Against the background of what you have experienced prior and during Covid-19, what do you think needs to be done to eliminate the scourge of Adult Rape, altogether?
MK: We believe that there is need for more awareness on the realities within our homes and societies including medical and psychological effects of rape. Access to justice for survivors is necessary for their healing and also fighting impunity. If perpetrators are convicted, we believe that there is a deterrent effect and also communities are safer.
TZ: And what roles can different stakeholders play? And in particular what can be done to overcome social norms and behaviour that abet Adult Rape?
All stakeholders have a responsibility to engage on rape issues and also creating safe spaces for both men and women.
Overcoming social norms and behaviour that abet Adult Rape is a socialisation problem in Zimbabwe. Therefore, from a young age, children must understand sexual consent and that rape is crime. Systems and harmful practices which perpetuate rape, such as blaming the survivor instead of the perpetrator, and forcing women to marry their abuser must be widely addressed in public Fora.
It is everyone’s responsibility to speak up and fight against rape in Zimbabwe. – R&M