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Appeal for 30-year mandatory rape sentence





WOMEN'S rights organisation, Musasa Project, is advocating for a minimum mandatory sentence of between 30 and 60 years for rape perpetrators, saying this would help deter would-be offenders.

Statistics in Zimbabwe show that at least 22 women are raped daily, resulting in rights groups calling for stiffer penalties.

"As an organisation we are actually thinking of 30 to 60 years. Some of the things that we have been doing as advocacy priority since 2012 thereabout, has been calling for a minimum mandatory sentence on rape.

"The reason we are doing this is that we are seeing a lot of discrepancies in terms of sentencing by the magistrates because it is up to the magistrates to decide how they are going to sentence," Musasa Project advocacy officer Rotina Mafume Musara told the Daily News yesterday.

Musara said the sentences imposed by magistrates were mostly discretionary and varied with each presiding officer, even when the circumstances were the same.

"We also have a provision where that rape sentence can take life imprisonment, but we haven't seen where it has been effected, but it says in worst case scenario.

"The argument then will be in case of rape which is the worst case scenario and which one is not because rape affects emotionally, physically, economically, socially and affects the whole person, a whole life is destroyed.

"If we have a minimum sentence on cattle theft where it's nine years … but for people we have zero, then it's cause for concern. What is the cost of human life over wild animals, over the cost of cattle, so we need to prioritise this because this is really an emergency," she said.

Musara further said that imposing stiffer penalties would act as a deterrent and also serve to educate the people, especially those who follow toxic religious and cultural practices, which give them false hope that they can actually get away with rape.

"Culturally, it might seem ok to do chiramu and you rape a minor, so, it is an issue for us. Also the criminal code says having sexual intercourse with a minor, and we have a problem with that statement.

"How do you have sexual intercourse with a minor? You are raping. There are no two ways about it.

"So, we have been advocating for the minimum mandatory sentence because in our work we see the effects of rape on women and girls.

"We see the far-reaching collateral consequences that come along with it and there's no price tag that we can put to human life," she said.

Musara further said that there was need for political will and commitment from authorities to introduce the minimum mandatory sentence, as well as clip the magistrates' powers.

"We need to trim it down to reasonable circumstances just like we did with cattle. We trimmed it down so that there is no room for people to say they were confused ‘because she had a big body and I thought she was 21'. With cattle you don't have that confusion what more on a human being. Rape is a heinous crime and we need to do something about it. It is not like we are going to be the first ones to do it, most African countries have imposed a minimum mandatory sentence on rape," she said.

Musara said she was confident the organisation's advocacy would soon pay dividends.

"I think advocacy is a long term process, especially if you are touching on issues that are really so intricate to people's lives. We are making strides.

"I think we are on track, we have had audience with parliamentarians, we have had audience with other civic society organisations and with other organisations, I think now the conversation has been taken up by other partners, which is good and shows progress. So, as the voices are coming out together I am sure very soon we will have positive results," Musara said.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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