To: The Minister of Health and Child Care
Cc: Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare
Cc: Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises
Cc: Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation
Cc: Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing
Bcc: National Covid19 Taskforce
Bcc: Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission

04 May 2020

  1. Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) recognizes the various efforts made by the Government of Zimbabwe in responding to the Covid19 threat in the country and especially designating special places as quarantine centers.
  2. As an organization which exists to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights for vulnerable people and communities, MIHR writes this open appeal calling for the immediate enactment of strict sexual exploitation and abuse protection mechanisms and reporting protocols in all the quarantine centers nationwide. Our concerns which leads to us making this passionate please are the increasing number of diaspora returnees set to arrive in the country from various countries (including the nearly 3000 from South Africa, among others) and that:
    a) These returnees will include women, children and youths and will be in quarantine centers for 14 days and therefore it is incumbent for the state to protect them from sexual exploitation and abuse. Critically for children, the state is mandated by Section 19 and 81 of the Constitution to ensure that ‘when removed from their family environment, they are protected from maltreatment, neglect or any form of abuse’;
    b) These returnees some of them have been out of employment and income for the past 6-8 weeks and they will be coming back without all their belongings and thus they may find themselves desperate for a plethora of human needs and this exposes them to sexual exploitation and abuse;
    c) Due to the harsh economic environment facing the country and the inadequate services and commodities, the returnees find themselves exposed to sexual exploitation and abuse in order to receive better services and supplies from aid workers;
  3. Our plea to the government therefore, is that in line with human rights principles and international humanitarian standards as espoused by World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN):
    I. The government set up sexual exploitation and abuse measures and reporting protocols in all Covid19 quarantine centers, and these be handed as written text to every person admitted in the quarantine center and also be posted in the rooms in the center.
    II. These measures and protocols should not only cover the citizens admitted at quarantine centers but also be there to protect volunteers and aid workers working as frontline workers in the centers as they also find themselves open to sexual exploitation and abuse from their senior supervisors.
    III. The Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Protection mechanisms and protocols adopted be issued publicly as a Statutory Instrument for everyone to know of them.
    IV. The government forge partnerships with counselling nongovernmental organizations who will enable the enforcement and monitoring of these measures and protocols.
  4. Our plea is not motivated by any specific case of sexual exploitation and abuse noted or reported in any quarantine center but:
    i. Is guided by the need to protect rights violations from happening because we note that where human beings are and where power relations and resources sharing is involved, human rights violations (especially of sexual abuse and exploitation nature) are always rampant;
    ii. Is motivated by the international best practices and standards regarding humanitarian aid and specifically the “Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse During Covid19 Response” Interim Technical Note released by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee endorsed by international organizations such as WHO, UNPFA, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, IOM, OCHA, among others.
    iii. Is inspired by the words of President Emmerson Mnangagwa while addressing the Nation on 01 May 2020 and spelling out Covid19 management measures and specifically reiterating that “we better err on the side of caution than recklessness” and we thus plead that let’s err on the side of caution by enacting these measures and protocols that protect sexual exploitation and abuse in quarantine centers.

Looking forward to your favorable response as we seek to contain the Covid19 pandemic in Zimbabwe.

Yours Sincerely

Benedict Sibasa
MIHR General Secretary

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