A TOTAL of 46 girls under the age of five were se_xually abused between January and June this year as Bulawayo continues to record staggering figures of se_xual gender-based violence.
These toddlers are part of the 320 women and girls who visited the Mpilo Central Hospital Family Support Clinic, amid concern that these figures are just a tip of the iceberg.
During the first six months of 2022, a total of 14 males were also se_xually violated with growing concern that such cases are on the increase.
The most affected age group was the 12-17 year-olds as a total of 149 females visited the unit.
Ideally, se_xual abuse survivors should report and get treatment for se_xually transmitted infections including HIV and unwanted preg_nancies within 72 hours.
Statistics from the clinic, however, show that these figures reflect only those who manage to report within 72 hours.
Mpilo public relations officer Sister Norma Mabhena said a lot needs to be done to deal with the culture of silence affecting those who have been se_xually abused.
She said reporting late also exposes the survivors to diseases, something that can be averted within the first 72 hours.
“From January to June we recorded a total of 317 cases and some of these are children aged zero to five years.
We had a total of 46 female under-fives, 46 both male and females aged 6-11 years while a total of 157 survivors aged between 12 and 17 were also sexually abused,” said Sr Mabhena.
“We had one female in the 60 plus age group who was also raped and 80 men and women who were sexually abused who are aged between 18 and 59.
We offered counselling, emergency contraceptives, and post exposure prophylaxis.
We also test them for STIs and we do have some who tested HIV positive.”
Sr Mabhena said when the clinic was first introduced the figures were generally 40 or so but they have since increased.
“The challenge is that a majority of these survivors report after 72 hours and we take them through counselling tests for six months to ensure they’re not at risk.
We urge people to seek medical attention to prevent diseases when se_xually abused, they may deal with the police and legal side later after undergoing counselling.
The other fear is around facing the police and narrating the ordeal but we have a police post here within Mpilo where they can easily access the service while we treat them.”
She said the bigger one stop centre which is under construction at Mpilo will help survivors deal with trauma from one roof and is likely to break the culture of silence around SGBV.
“We are happy that the Government and its partners are chipping in to help us cater for our clients from under one roof as a way to break the culture of silence.
The unique facility, whose completion has been scheduled for this month end, will help survivors access legal and medical help as well as counselling and ensure justice is served.”
Police have since called on residents to desist from sharing bedrooms as this is fueling rap_e cases in the provinces.
Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said although hardships may be prevalent, residents must never squeeze the whole family in one room.
“It is very unhealthy and unethical for parents to share a single room with their grown up children, especially of both se_xes.
As police we encourage members of the public to do their best to avoid staying in environments or situations that are reasonably likely to promote immorality.
“We are investigating a rap_e case where a 50-year-old man rap_ed his 15-year-old step daughter in Imbesu park, Umguza near the airport.
The complainant, her brother, mother and the now accused stepfather share a single room.”
Insp Ncube said last Thursday, the accused shared a bed with the complainant’s brother while the complainant slept on the floor as his wife had travelled.
“In the middle of the night the accused sneaked into the complainant’s blankets whilst her brother was fast asleep.
He threatened the complainant not to scream as he would chop off her head with an axe.
He removed complainant’s clothes and rap_ed her once and the complainant’s brother did not hear anything,” said Insp Ncube.
“After rap_ing the complainant, the accused person returned to his bed where he slept till the following morning.
The matter came to light in the morning when the complainant narrated the incident to her brother and their mother who escorted her to the police.”
A group of Zimbabweans based in the Diaspora has since urged Government to enact a Se_xual Offenders Act that will result in authorities coming up with a sex_ offenders’ registry.
Neighbouring South Africa is one of the countries which has a national register of se_x offenders which is said to have helped prevent repeat offences.
Generally, such a register is a record of names of those found guilty of se_xual offences against children and mentally-disabled persons.
Team Nkalakatha Think Tank Foundation which is made up of Zimbabwean professionals in various sectors which include health, education, policy and leadership, based in the United Kingdom, United States of America and South Africa said the scourge of sexual violence in the country needs action.
Chairperson of the foundation, Mr Keith Dube told Chronicle from his base in in the UK that a number of countries have come up with such an Act.
“In developed countries, the se_xual offenders act helps to mitigate the scourge and protects the vulnerable.
“If we are to have this act it will initiate a Se_xual Offender Register whereby anyone who has been convicted and cautioned by the law will have their details taken down and this register remains open to scrutiny by employers, doctors, social services and such like so that even if the offender migrates to another province the records will be available for monitoring of such people,” he said.
“Se_xual abuse is a cancer that is traumatising people and action is needed.
We have teachers who commit such acts and they may relocate to another school undetected but with such a register it will be easy for such a person to be caught to protect children falling prey to him.
By having such a law Zimbabwe will also be seen as a country that promotes safety and security to others.”
Mr Dube said the once the law is in place a database of such offenders will be available upon request.
He said with the likely influx of Zimbabweans from South Africa due to non-renewal of Zimbabwean Special Permits, the country may be at risk of receiving returnees who would have been convicted of se_x offences.
“We aim to be in the forefront in promoting education around the subject.
We will educate those on the ground so that they can also take that knowledge and use it for the public benefit.
We can engage in what needs to be done in the institutions such as intervention strategies.
We will also assist in getting the required material for this to be a success,” he said
Mr Dube said the foundation will also work with traditional leaders to educate them on this so that perpetrators are reported to the se_x offender office.
He said the foundation which is apolitical is concerned with the improvement of the citizenry of Zimbabwe and to see the country and its citizens viewed with respect locally and internationally.