Rape and Domestic Violence: While the law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, the law was not effectively enforced, and rape remained a widespread problem. Sexual offenses, including rape, are punishable by lengthy prison sentences, although women’s organizations stated that the sentences of those convicted were inconsistent. Rape victims seldom received protection in court.
Victims reported few cases of rape due to social stigma and societal perceptions that rape was simply a “fact of life” that could not be challenged. A lack of services for rape victims also discouraged reporting. Victims reported even fewer cases of spousal rape because of fear of losing economic support, fear of reprisal, lack of awareness that spousal rape was a crime, police reluctance to be involved in domestic disputes, and bureaucratic hurdles. Most rural citizens were unfamiliar with laws against domestic violence and sexual offenses. Chiefs of local jurisdictions usually handled gender-based violence in trials applying customary law.
Police sometimes did not act on reported rape cases if the perpetrators were aligned with ZANU-PF or if the rape was used as a political tool against non-ZANU-PF members, as occurred during the 2008 election. Unlike the 2008 elections, which resulted in numerous cases of politically motivated gang rapes, there were very few reports of rape used as a political weapon during the 2013 elections period.
The media frequently published stories criticizing rape and reporting convictions. In September the Chronicle newspaper reported that a Harare magistrate sentenced Greatness Tapfuma, a prominent local pastor, to 30 years in prison for raping a female minor. During the sentencing the magistrate expressed concern regarding the prevalence of rape cases committed by religious leaders. In May a man age 19 was sentenced to 210 hours of community service for impregnating a girl age 12.
Children born from rape suffered stigmatization and marginalization. The mothers of children resulting from rape sometimes were reluctant to register the births, and such children did not have access to social services.
The adult rape clinics in public hospitals in Harare and Mutare were run as NGOs and did not receive a substantial amount of financial support from the Ministry of Health. The clinics received referrals from police and NGOs. They administered HIV tests, provided medication for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and provided medical services for pregnancy. Although police referred the majority of reported rapes of women and men who received services from the rape centers for prosecution, very few were prosecuted. Private clinics and clinics supported by NGOs and bilateral and multilateral development partners emerged in the past few years to provide medical assistance to survivors of rape. There were also NGOs that provided psychosocial support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence through assistance from the Integrated Support Program, a multidonor effort funded by international aid donors and managed by the UN Population Fund.
In June 2014 the government launched an anti-rape campaign that included a national action plan to combat the problem. The plan focuses on rape prevention services, researching the problem, and increasing coordination between government agencies and civic groups working on the problem. Women’s organizations contended that the government was not likely to implement the plan due to resource constraints.
Gender-based violence was prevalent in society. The law criminalizes domestic violence, which was a serious problem, especially intimate partner violence perpetrated by men against women. Although domestic violence is punishable by a fine and a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, authorities generally considered it a private matter, so prosecution was rare. Most cases of domestic violence went unreported due to traditional sensitivities, victims’ fear of abandonment without support, police reluctance to intervene, and the expectation that perpetrators would not be tried or convicted. There were newspaper reports of wife killings and a few other media reports of prosecutions and convictions for such crimes.
The joint government-NGO Anti-Domestic Violence Council as a whole was ineffective due to lack of funding and the unavailability of information on prevailing trends of domestic violence, although its members were active in raising domestic violence awareness.
The government continued a public awareness campaign against domestic violence. Several women’s rights groups worked with law enforcement agencies and provided training and literature on domestic violence as well as shelters and counseling for women. The high turnover rate within the police force demanded a continuous level of training that could not be met. While public awareness increased, other problems emerged. For example, the form required to report domestic violence was difficult to complete, and victims were often required to make their own photocopies due to police budgetary constraints. The law requires victims of any form of violence to produce a police report to receive treatment without cost at government health facilities. This requirement prevented many rape victims from receiving necessary medical treatment, including postexposure prophylaxis to prevent victims from contracting HIV.
A local NGO, Musasa Project, which provides emergency shelter and related services for women, handled a monthly average of 1,684 cases of violence against women. Musasa reported that 77 percent of their clients were girls under age 18.
The Judicial Service Commission established a Multi-Sectoral Protocol on Sexual Abuse in 2012 in partnership with 11 government bodies. The protocol details the respective roles and responsibilities of different government agencies in responding to adult and child sexual and gender-based violence cases. The government must rely upon external funding and assistance to implement the protocol.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Virginity testing, although reportedly decreasing, continued to occur in some parts the country during the year.
Sexual Harassment: The law does not criminalize sexual harassment, but labor law prohibits the practice in the workplace. Media reported that sexual harassment was prevalent in universities, workplaces, and parliament. In October, Patrick Ndhlovu, a Zimbabwe Power Company supervisor, appeared before a Mbare magistrate’s court on charges of indecent assault after allegations that he used his position to threaten and sexually harass female subordinates. On December 5, Mbare Magistrate Zihove ruled the prosecution had failed to prove its case and acquitted Zdhlovu.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. According to the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the contraceptive prevalence rate was 67 percent. The adolescent birth rate was estimated at 112 per 1,000 for women and girls ages 15 to 19 from 1999 to 2012. Inadequate medical facilities, an advanced HIV/AIDS epidemic, poorly trained health-care professionals, and a shortage of health professionals contributed to a high maternal mortality rate of 470 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013. The MICS reported that maternal health improved significantly between 2010 and 2014. Antenatal care attendance and skilled birth attendance increased to 94 percent and 80 percent respectively. While antenatal care attendance was almost the same between rural and urban areas, skilled birth attendance was much lower in rural areas, 75 percent compared with 93 percent in urban areas. No information was available on whether women were equally diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Despite laws aimed at enhancing women’s rights and countering certain discriminatory traditional practices, however, women remained disadvantaged in society. Economic dependency and prevailing social norms prevented rural women in particular from combating societal discrimination.
The law recognizes a woman’s right to own property, but very few women did so because of patriarchal inheritance rights under customary practice. Less than 20 percent of female farmers were official landowners or named on government lease agreements, although there was improvement in the registration of women as landowners during the year. Divorce and maintenance laws were equitable, but many women lacked awareness of their rights. Women have the right to register their children’s births, although either the father or a male relative must be present. Discrimination with respect to women’s employment also occurred (see section 7.d.).
Women and children were adversely affected by the government’s forced evictions, demolition of homes and businesses, and takeover of commercial farms. Widows, when forced to relocate to rural areas, were sometimes “inherited” into marriages with an in-law after the deaths of their spouses.
The government gave qualified women access to training in the armed forces and national service, where they continued to occupy primarily administrative positions.
The United Kingdom Department for International Development’s 2011 Gender and Social Exclusion Analysis Report reported that women experienced extensive economic discrimination, including in access to employment, credit, pay, and owning or managing businesses. Despite being responsible for 53 percent of all economic activity in the country, including 75 percent of all agricultural labor, three-quarters of households headed by a woman were “poor” or “very poor.”