Gender Minister Elizabeth Phiri says the rise in the number of reported Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases is a sign that the fight against the vice is yielding fruit.

And Phiri has has vowed that soon, Gender Based Violence cases will be treated as “the people vs the perpetrator”.

Speaking to journalists in Lusaka, Thursday, Phiri, who is also Kanyama PF member of parliament, observed that the country was making headway in the fight against GBV on account of the surge in the number of reported cases.

“In the first place, I would say that since His Excellency was appointed the champion in ending child marriage and Gender-Based Violence, I can say progress can be marked in two-fold. When you see numbers growing in reporting, that is a sign, enough, that people are getting the message. Customs and traditions were killing us, it was normal for a wife to be beaten, it was normal for a child to be married off early. This is the very reason that government is working with our traditional leaders because these are the people that were behind this evil vice. So, there is progress because the numbers that we are hearing is because of the sensitization and the involvement of the traditional leaders has made an impact even at village-level,” Phiri said.

She also announced that her Ministry was currently in talks with stakeholders on empowering GBV survivors to ensure that they emerged stronger from the horrific experiences.

“We are in discussion with our cooperating partners, who are willing to support the victims through our Ministry in the victims to be permanently empowered, economically. When you take statistics, you find that homes with both partners contributing in the needs of the children, it could be through a small business or work, there are less fights or less quarrels because you find that there is no one who is burdened. But for us to empower the victim, this victim should be proved that this one whom we are sending to prison is actually the major breadwinner of the family. We know that victims like, ‘I was beaten by a boyfriend,’ you can do away with that boyfriend, and you can avoid that. You don’t need to hold on to an abusive relationship; ‘I was beaten by my father,’ we have to prove that there is truly a relationship between the victim and the breadwinner, how bonding is it, if it’s not, we have to find a solution.”

And Phiri urged GBV survivors to stop withdrawing cases before they reach court because the trend is leaving perpetrators to walk away scot-free.

“We might be seeing the escalating numbers. What is happening is the same person can be reporting to 20 different police stations. Today, he is abused, he goes to this police (station), but knowing that I withdrew the matter; the next time this person is battered, they will not go to the same police (station), but a different police station. So, you find that the same person will be rotating that same case and the same perpetrator of Gender-Based Violence, but because they have nothing to lay their hands on, they will end up withdrawing matters as many times as they report. So, I am appealing even to the police to advise the victims when they report not to withdraw the matter. We will (come) to a stage where we will say that once reported, it’s now the people vs the perpetrator, we don’t want to see the perpetrators walking scot-free! As you are aware, we have the political will to end this vice, but it takes us, as a community, it takes us, as a family, to support the political will,” said Phiri.

“I know there is no law that compels the police not to allow the victim to withdraw a case, we are working on some laws that would compel the police not to withdraw, but apart from the law, we have discovered that the major contributing factor for Gender-Based Violence is poverty because you find that the perpetrator is a breadwinner for the family and this woman, when they report cases, you find that they miss this breadwinner, who is an abuser because they don’t have a plate of soup on their table. So, I am appealing to the abused, whether you are a woman or a man, to let the case reported see the court and justice has to be given to the victim. I am also appealing to the menfolk, because these are the people that they abuse, we know that there are men being bused by their wives, but they are not reporting, also neighbours to report on behalf of the innocent victims, you know I am talking about minors, I am talking about children, when a child is being abused, even by a parent, let the neighbours be reporting such parents who are abusing their children. So, everybody should be a brother’s keeper.”