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16 days of Gender Activism: Inyaya Dzerudo: ZRP and Violence against women

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I used to think that women who were beaten by their partners had no backbone. I saw them as weak and stupid. I didn’t really understand how difficult a step it was to bring the culprits to justice in Zimbabwe, until my own sister was entangled in such a relationship.

The first time she told me that he was beating her, I immediately thought “We’re so, gonna get him arrested!” And so, the very next morning, with her injuries still fresh(ish), we drove to Mabelreign police station, ignoring others’ suggestions to take matters into our own hands and get him thoroughly beaten up. I had really high hopes that he would be properly punished, according to the law, for what he had done. In retrospect, we should have beaten him ourselves!

It did not take long for me to see that the matter was of little or no importance to them. They asked her to make a statement, which they convoluted, writing it in their own words and later asked her to sign. They then casually mentioned that they had arrested him before for assault and knew him reasonably well. They laughed as they recapped previous encounters with him. The whole issue seemed to have lightened to mood of the station and offered the officers some comic relief. I told them this was not a laughing matter.

They assured me that they were sending a car out to get him, he arrived nearly 2 hours later, (driving his own car), nonchalantly eating an apple. The “Public Relations” officer explained that he would like to talk to them both, in order to ascertain what really happened, and give them both counseling. I insisted on going in with my sister, (I was not going to let her be in the same room as that monster!). The counseling, if one can call it that, was done in a small room where we all sat on the same small bench. Was I dreaming? How can they expect a victim of domestic violence to sit next to her abuser and give all the details of the experience?

I complained to them about the whole procedure and their lackadaisical attitude and several of the police officers said to me, “Siyanai nazvo. Inyaya Dzerudo!” (Stay out of it. This issue is about love). They would say this to me again and again as I made repeated attempts to report the beatings my sister received in 2009. The attitude the police have is that domestic violence is not a real criminal issue but a minor problem within personal relationships, and is therefore too trivial for them to bother with.

When faced with this reality, how can another women, a new victim of domestic violence of a long-sufferer who has had enough go to the police and expect help? Where can women go for real help, when those whose jobs it is to protect all citizens from this country from a myriad of harms, think her husband or boyfriend beating her is a laughing matter?

I am not discounting the existence of compassionate members of the police force out there, who would treat matters of domestic violence with some level of professionalism and treat these matters with the importance they deserve, but I, and the majority of Zimbabwe’s women are yet to meet or hear of such a police officer.

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