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THE recent sentencing of two touts who stripped a woman at a commuter transport rank has set a precedent hailed by the women’s movement as victory against gender-based violence.

Marvellous Kandemiri (32) and Blessing Chinodakufa (31) were sentenced to 12 months in prison, four months of which were suspended on condition of good behaviour.

The two indecently assaulted a 28-year-old woman at Fourth Street Bus Terminus in Harare for allegedly wearing a mini-skirt.

A video of the woman being stripped went viral on social media in December.

Their sentencing has been welcomed as victory for freedom and justice as enshrined in the Constitution.

“It is a pointed intervention by the courts and the case is going to serve as a test to all in a bid to curb gender based violence,” Sally Dura, the national coordinator for Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe told the Financial Gazette.

In terms of section 52 of the Constitution every person has the right to physical and mental integrity (wholeness), which includes the right to freedom from all forms of violence.

Talent Juma of Katswe Women Sista-hood, said they have noted that the Criminal Codification Act, lends substance to this constitutional right by criminalising actions that promote public violence, breaches of peace on bigotry.

“For us stripping of this woman was a form of public violence and breach of peace we want all perpetrators punished,” she said.

While the dominant sentiment in the women’s coalition was that victory had been achieved, others, however, felt the sentence could have been stiffer.

Juma is one of those who believes that, given the magnitude of the offence, a stiffer penalty should have been preferred.

Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre Network official, Pamela Mhlanga, applauded the sentencing of the touts describing it as a victory to all forms of violence against women.

“Though there is so much happening underground in terms of abuse and violence against women, the case has set a precedent and heightened interest to investigate more of these abuses,” says Mhlanga

While this may be a win for the women’s movement in Zimbabwe, who pushed for justice in the matter, what could be a step forward is somewhat clouded by continued violence against women elsewhere.

The case comes in the wake of increasing rape incidents in Harare.

The capital city has recorded that over 650 women and girls were raped in the last 10 months, according to a recent police report.

The report noted that by June last year, 12 cases of murder were before the High Court, an increase of 60 percent from 2013 figures.

With respect to domestic violence, the 2011-2012 Demographic Health Survey (DHS) found that 30 percent of all women had experienced physical violence since they were 15.

Of those who experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and who were currently or previously married, the most common perpetrator of that vioence was the current (66,4 percent) or former (23,7 percent) husband or partner.

This indicates that the vast majority of physical violence experienced by women in Zimbabwe is from their husbands and partners.

With respect to sexual violence, 92 percent of women who had experienced sexual violence did so at the hands of a husbandartner or boyfriend.

The 2010 DHS found that 42 percent of women had experienced physical andor sexual violence in their lifetimes for women aged 15-49 21,6 percent reported that their first experience of sexual intercourse was forced against their will.

According to the latest human rights report by the United States Department of State, there have been reports of politically motivated rape and instances where police did not respond to rape accusations if the woman was a member of parties opposed to ZANU-PF.

Despite these efforts, reports point to a rise in cases of gender-based crimes across the country, with the highest numbers recorded in Mashonaland Central, where politically-motivated violence is also high.

Source : Financial Gazette