Religious leaders, UNAIDS and health CSOs meet over GBV among women living with HIV

FAITH based organisations, health focussed civil society organisations, and UNAIDS converged virtually on Tuesday to discuss and profer solutions to mitigate the distressingly affective gender based violence inflicted on women living with HIV.
Women and young girls are at the mercy of numbminded perpetrators who inflict physical and mental harm. Amidst the COVID-19 lockdown, many women were physically and sexually assaulted.
During the lockdown, there were fewer reports as well as unsatisfactory action taken against perpetrators on the back of lack of resources within the Victim Friendly Units as well as fear of victimisation by friends and relatives.
Gender based violence and HIV according to a UNAIDS official aggravates adversely the mental health, reproductive health and bodily harm on women.
Speaking on her behalf of UNAIDS Zimbabwe Country Director Dr Sophia Monico, the communications officer Ms Linda Hwenga said it was important to address gender based violence among women living with HIV.
“Both Gender Based Violence (GBV) and HIV exacerbate psychological, reproductive health and physiological consequences on survivors. Children are more vulnerable to both GBV and HIV. However, there exists limited data, few models and few prevention interventions and services for survivors of GBV,” she said.
“Women face vulnerabilities to HIV of women in the Zimbabwe and the barriers that they face in accessing health services. The vulnerability of women and girls to HIV in Zimbabwe is the consequence of protracted insecurity, violence and humanitarian crises compounded with toxic masculinities and negative social norms,” Dr Monico said.
Dr Monico also said children are more affected particularly in settings where intimate partner violence is rife.
“The impact of gender-based violence on health, productivity, economy, and social life and therefore a country’s ability to achieve its goals is documented. Data has shown the inter-connection between different forms of gender-based violence and HIV through direct or indirect pathways.
“Both Gender Based Violence (GBV) and HIV exacerbate psychological, reproductive health and physiological consequences on survivors. Children are more vulnerable to both GBV and HIV. However, there exists limited data, few models and few prevention interventions and services for survivors of GBV,” she said.
Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Zimbabwe’s representative Sheikh Ishamail Asima Duwa accussed religious leaders for manipulating the Bible for their own twisted agendas. This statement comes amidst a tide of child marriages mainly in the apostolic sect which has been left sweeping across Zimbabwe for decades.
With this being an apostolic sect tradition, some communities in Zimbabwe still pledge their children to old men as wives in a practise venacularly dubbed Kuzvarira.
From Katswe Sistahood, Debra Mwase said there are many loooholes in the country’s legal statutes leaving perpetrators roaming scot free.
She said there are no legal provisions regarding issues to do with sexual harassment outside the workplace.

Mrs Phylis Manungo from the Seventh Day Adventist said, “As faith based leaders we would like people have love, care as well as long suffering attitude towards one another. Since we are the ones in the community we know that love and care comes from our homes.”

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