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Index of articles surrounding the debate of the Domestic Violence Bill
women plead for curbs on domestic violence
September 21, 2006
the index of articles on the debate around the Domestic Violence
HARARE, Sept 21 (Reuters) - When Sarah
Mandiopera said she wanted to attend a funeral -- the second in
three days -- her husband refused. When she insisted on going, he
bludgeoned her to death in front of their three young children.
Those children, the eldest a 10-year-old
boy, met Zimbabwe legislators and the public at a hearing on Thursday
on a proposed law to curb domestic violence.
"A lot of perpetrators are getting away
with murder," Betty Makoni, director of Girl
Child Network, a pressure group fighting for the rights of girls,
told the public hearing.
Violence Bill was first mooted 10 years ago but women's groups
have this year pressured President Robert Mugabe's government to
speedily enact the law, saying more than 90 percent of domestic
violence targets women.
Zimbabwe's economic crisis, which has
seen inflation soar to more than 1,000 percent amid shortages of
food, fuel and foreign exchange, has also spurred the need for more
Some women say the crisis has spawned
anger among many people, with most men finding it easier to direct
their rage at more vulnerable groups of society, such as women and
children, instead of the state, which has clamped down on dissent.
The bill classifies physical, sexual,
emotional, verbal and psychological abuse as acts of domestic violence,
and criminalises those along with intimidation, harassment and stalking.
The draft law also takes aim at some
cultural practices including female gender mutilation, child marriage,
and "wife inheritance", in which wives are passed along in their
husband's family if the husband dies.
There were several sad tales of domestic
violence at Thursday's meeting, including a recent "rescue" mission
in eastern Zimbabwe by a local rights group and police to save four
young girls given to another family as payment to appease spirits,
a traditional practice in the country.
Women and children spoke of physical
abuse by their spouses and fathers, a domestic worker narrated a
rape ordeal, while some women said they had endured days in the
bush, running away from abusive men.
Traditionally domestic violence is treated
as a private family matter and cases reported to the police seldom
go to court. When they do, perpetrators are either fined or sentenced
to community service, activists say.
A recent survey by some NGOs showed that
60 percent of the murder cases that go through Zimbabwe's High Courts
are a result of home violence mostly involving spouses and relatives.
Many Zimbabwean women are encouraged by parents to endure violent
and abusive relationships for the sake of the children, and often
do not speak of abuse, fearing the stigma of divorce.
"My crime is that I don't want to continue
to be a slave and I am in hiding because my husband wants to kill
me," said Shorai Chitongo, a mother of three, who now lives in a
safe house provided by a local rights group outside the capital.
Women say the creation of the Women's
Affairs and Gender Ministry, headed by gender activist and politician
Oppah Muchinguri, has given fresh impetus for the new law.
Legislators have come out in support
of the bill, which is expected to be debated and passed by Parliament
before the end of this year.
Women's groups said they wanted stiffer
penalties for offenders, saying the maximum jail sentence for stealing
cattle is 49 years while that for domestic violence is just 10 years.
"What is more important a cow or a woman?"
asked Florence Mudzongwa, a programme officer at Girl Child Network.
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