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Legalising rape in Zimbabwe

“More than 1,600 girls raped,” the words jumped at me from a newspaper article. What! Despite all the measures to curb this evil. I thought about the tough sentences, and tough they are: a cattle rustler gets 12 years whilst a rapist gets three years or community service. Message is clear: if you seek for Justice, it is better to be a cow rather than a raped girl.
Zimbabwe Republic Police reported that between January and June this year 1,628 girls reported having been raped. A rise of 5% from last year.

The sentences given to many rapists are a joke to the lives destroyed. It is easier to find a needle in a haystack than justice for a girl in Zimbabwe. Cultural and religious beliefs and low self-esteem render girls powerless. men are motivated by societal reactions to rape, seems it is more degrading to be raped than be the rapist. It should never be the victims’ fault. Rape is a culture which continues to deny the very EXISTENCE of women, a sign of our culture’s failings. But if a man is raped, the scenario changes.

In 2012 a man was raped. There was a public outcry from men for punishment for the women who committed the crime. The victim’s allegations were believed immediately. Politicians and religious leaders castigated the crime. Thousands of girls have been raped and never has such a reaction been seen. A girl faces trauma, disbelief and accusations so there is a strong silence on rape. Rape is a power game with patriarchal values, showing the useless power of abuser.

Alarming statistics from ZIMSTATS and UNICEF show that one in three girls has been sexually abused by the time they turn 18. 95% of the cases the victims know the criminal. According to Girl Child Network (GCN), of 4,000 known rape cases per year, only 500 result in a prosecution. A GCN research indicates that a man can rape 250 children before his crimes become public. Rape is the most underreported violent crime worldwide and 10 girls report rape everyday in Zimbabwe, as a similar number or more remain silent. 75% of cases are withdrawn to protect the perpetrators. Even when investigations prove someone guilty, the offenders are acquitted at the same time that victims wallow in shame, publicly condemned and stigmatised whilst physically nursing torn vaginas and ruptured uterus. Mostly, silence is the preferred option for the victims.

Unbelievably, parents marry off their daughters to the rapist, declaring the rape legal. The rapist will only be avoiding criminal charges. By paying a brideprice “rape”, becomes legal and is called “marriage”. A criminal walks away free with the added bonus of a “wife”.

“Girls never say ‘yes’, their ‘no’ means ‘yes’” states some offenders. I am a girl , I know the difference between ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and how to use them. 90% of abused girls resisted the rape whilst the perpetrators feel those girls’ protests did not sound convincing. What is it about the word NO that men cannot understand? In South Africa a rape is said to be committed every 26 seconds. It sadly means at some point every woman in the society will be raped.

as we fight the battle we must look into the bigger picture to stop sexual abuse of minors. Abuse has economical, political and physical connotations. It is about domination and victory, rich versus poor, corruption versus virtue. It is about a child trusting a village to raise her only to realise that the village does not respect her values. A cultural overhaul is needed to change the situation.

Rape perpetrators should be publicly declared, to give faces and names to the sexual offenders so rape becomes a public crime, openly spoken about.

Women parliamentarians need to take up the challenge by appealing for equality in the Justice system.
I am appealing for women the world over to speak out about abuse of girls in Zimbabwe and share strategies to engage stakeholders, while mapping a way forward on reducing the incidents of rape.

It’s equal treatment we deserve. Outrage before rape must be a unique voice, from men and women, on equal basis. Ignoring reality and not making rape a priority is a way of legalising it, in silence.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.


Y's picture

Well done, Pela! I am

Well done, Pela! I am shuddering with outrage; this is why we write. The only way I see out of the culture of abuse toward the most vulnerable members of our societies is for women to band together and stopped producing children until the values and laws are changed.
Blessings to you.


pelamutunzi's picture

drastic action needed and soon

You are right about the need for women to band together and take a drastic action by not giving birth until laws are changed. This would really change things. I have read your work and note your position on childbirth for women. Do you think women would agree to stop bringing forth life? in Zimbabwe it seems that is the cement of relationships and marriages. Seems at times people give birth for the wrong reasons.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

Y's picture

We will not use our wombs to fill more tombs.

I have been having discussions about responsible sexuality since I became sixteen years old and my future mother-in-law (a registered nurse) sent me to a gynecologist to put me on birth control pills. She knew that I planned to marry her adult, employed son as soon as I graduated from high school, and she wanted to make sure that my graduation took place before I became pregnant. Sadly, she died before we produced her first grandchild, but I am eternally grateful for her wise action.

In my religious school and family upbringing, the only thing we were told repeatedly is that sex without marriage was a sin. There was no attention paid to the fact that marriage is not a magic spell that produces resources for childcare. In many marriages, the spouses are simply encouraged to remain children as they produce more children. This may have worked well in farm families who saw their children as extra field hands and household help, but it is past time that we rethink the purposes of human sexuality.

We have been taught that our own immortality is based on procreation, and with high mother and child mortality, we are afraid of not passing on our own genetics. We aren’t taught to stop and think about the welfare of our children, even when we know that our genetics may be passing on deadly and debilitating diseases. We also aren’t taught to pay attention to the types of parenting partnerships we are forming. Two people without the resources to take care of themselves don’t magically become productive in human society because they have produced offspring.

The animal instinct to reproduce is built into us, but we are taught that humans can channel and control our animal instincts. In our technological societies, there is less need for human manual labor, but we continue to produce children who will be disrespected as slaves or sent into battle to win territory and other resources for the most vicious animals in human forms. Better maternal and infant healthcare has made it possible to hope that all of one’s offspring will survive into adulthood, so there is less need to fear loss of our children.

There is less manual labor to do and more people than are necessary to do it. Whenever there is a surplus of anything, including humans, the value of each “unit” goes down. Why do we continue allowing despotic leaders to convince us that the only value for a virtuous woman is in accepting their seed and those of their minions and ministering to them and their progeny? Our brains, not only our bodies, are meant to be fruitful, share, and multiply our sacred energy, with or without union with a man.
I know that our fertile bodies cry out for procreation, but there is a difference between motherhood in an animal sense and human nurture. What other animal takes over 18 years to train their offspring for their individual survival? This is a commitment that takes, not only a mother, but also responsible, committed parenting partners within a greater committed community.

How is it that we don’t see unwanted, unplanned children as the victims in our irresponsible procreative habits? There are ways to stop this desecration of full humanity with the advent of better and more effective, temporary forms of conception control. Several of these methods are now virtually undetectable, in that they are injected. Some of them prevent pregnancy for several years at a time. Some are even effective after unplanned sex and simply prevent the fertilization of the egg to occur.

Rape is simply another way to dis-empower a female. The rape does not have to destroy a woman, but the results will always be permanent if the girl or woman is impregnated. In areas where rape is endemic, implants could be used to protect the girls and women until they are ready to support themselves and make their own informed choices. At the very least, morning after pills should be freely distributed to the girls and women in the areas.

I am not advocating that we women stop having sex in our responsible, committed relationships. I believe that responsible, compassionate sexuality is an avenue to peace between people and an avenue for couples to increase their sacred energy to a point that they simply must share this energy with others.

I am imploring all women, for the sake of responsible compassion for all innocent children, all over the earth, to empower ourselves with ways to support ourselves and realize our full human potential, other than as wombs and nursemaids, before we bring babies into the world to become slaves and soldiers for those who despise them.
Toni Morrison wrote a powerful book, Beloved, about the dilemma a slave mother faced upon learning she was pregnant and the terrible decision she made to “protect” her child. I weep simply thinking about her solution, but I understand, as a mother, why she chose to take her own child’s life rather than be forced to bear witness to her child being treated as less than a fully human being. We now have better solutions in the form of conception control.

We will not use our wombs to fill more tombs.


Tash's picture

this is sad! those are sad

this is sad! those are sad statistics! A man gets raped and there is speedy justice in the form of activism, when i say women are still minorities in some societies some people find that hard to believe, they think women just still want special treatment! this is not the case! keep fighting this injustice!

great job!

Kind Regards,

pelamutunzi's picture

women indeed minorities

Yes though we want to pretend otherwise women remain minorities even as shown by the way society rects to women. When a woman commits adultery it seems society is harsh on her, when her husband dies society is harsh on her, when she has no children society is harsh on her, when she has only boy children societr is harsh on her and when they are girls it is harsh on her, when she goes to work society is harsh when she does not society is harsh and when she is raped society is harsh. Indeed women are a minority facing great injustice and we should fight for equality in al spheres of her

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

Mukut's picture

How much I can relate to this

Sad ! The statistics of rape are increasingly becoming higher everywhere. I have been crying hoarse about rape impunity and rape culture in my country. The victims are always blamed and nothing happens to the rapist.

A case of marrying off the raped girl to her rapist was recently highlighted even in India. Imagine living with your rapist and getting raped every day! Is that justice or is the price you pay for being born a woman in such a country.

I am just sad.

But on a positive note, thank you for writing this. Extremely well written and captures our attention immediately. Well done !


Mukut Ray

pelamutunzi's picture

oh mukut

thank you for reading i read your oped and for a moment thought you were writing about zimbabwe. the world has to change otherwise nothing is changing for girl's abuse. if the offenders were humiliated and given harsh punishments then maybe offenders would be deterred otherwise more or less society is saying its okay for the crime to continue. there was once a woman judge who gave stiff penalties to rapists and for once men were afraid of rape but they stigmatised her and said she had been raped (was not true but they thought she was bitter and hated men). i cry everyday because as a teacher i face the situations daily. relatives, boyfriends and friends are the biggest offenders people that the girls trust.
thanks for reading

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

Ayunnie's picture

The bigger picture to stop sexual abuse

Pela, this is a critical issue of women defilement a and sexual abuse. Its a big issue gobally concern too. Its sad to watch our society degenerate to this state of animal-like. We will continue voicing our voice on rape until we eradicate it in our society!

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

pelamutunzi's picture

it is true

we cannot stop fighting until there is eqaulity. the continued cases also point to a state of inequality between male and feamle. with the empowerment drive strongly echoed in zimbabwe sometimes there is a sense of inferiroty among men leading them to do these evil things. but overally its just cruelty. period. and women are blamed so the men know there are people who offer them cheap sympathy by blaming women.
thank you for reading.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.

Hideko N.'s picture

How could a man be raped?

How could a man be raped? Was he so helpless before the advantage the woman rapist? Did he take every measure to escape from the crime and what did he lose from the rape? When women are raped, women loses much by communal ostracism, marital disqualification, and character deformation. Did he get the same deal? It may be interesting to know the content of the allegation for the world to examine. Sister, I appreciate you not giving up on this issue but you will certainly find loop hole that men can not justify rape against women.
Hideko N.

Sherry L's picture


Thank you for writing such a compelling op-ed describing the situation rape victims face in Zimbabwe. As I was reading it, a friend said he heard a story about rape case protests in Zimbabwe on NPR tonight. I don't know if you saw the petition Rebecca created about the situation in Uganda. These situations are all too common. You're right, as women we must take the lead in ending injustices of this nature.
Keep writing. Your voice matters,

Sherry Helmke

Zoepiliafas's picture

I am sitting here reading

I am sitting here reading this and getting angry. The time to change this is now! Our collective outrage must be heard. We must prioritize engaging men in this conversation. We no longer should bear the burden of this being a crime against us and us being responsible for changing it.

Men need to wake up and begin taking responsibility.

You statement: "It’s equal treatment we deserve. Outrage before rape must be a unique voice, from men and women, on equal basis. Ignoring reality and not making rape a priority is a way of legalising it, in silence." - got me charged. Powerful powerful powerful!

Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager
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