We should applaud Cabinet for its strong message to sex offenders.
Last Tuesday, Government established principles on proposed amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on minimum mandatory sentencing of rapists.
According to the principles, rapists will be sentenced to 60 years for sexual violence against 12-year-olds and the disabled, and 40 years for the remaining categories of offences.
Folks, the country’s rape statistics are very disturbing and all we can conclude from perusing them is that something needed to be done as soon as yesterday.
Figures released by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency last year show that at least 21 women are raped daily in Zimbabwe, which translates to one woman being sexually abused every 75 minutes.
There was a 42 percent increase in rape cases over the past six years.
If we include unreported incidences and the number of men being raped by women, the figure can be actually much higher.
I believe that unreported cases are probably higher than reported ones.
In light of the above, we surely cannot continue on such a trend as business as usual and as if nothing is wrong here.
Rape and any other form of sexual violence should be denied a place in this contemporary society. We cannot call ourselves progressive when some amongst us are still practising these barbaric acts.
Rape leaves wounds that will always remain fresh in the victim’s faculties. It certainly can inflict long term psychological, emotional and physical wounds on a victim.
Apart from depression and post-traumatic disorder, some are left infected with viruses that will affect their lives.
Some end up with unwanted pregnancies and giving birth to children they cannot even look at without thinking about the ordeal they went through.
Going through that kind of pain every single day is just an awful experience that no one deserves.
Rape is the gravest form of violence, folks, which is why offenders should be given the gravest form of punishment and not be slapped on their wrists.
This is why in countries such as China the sentence for rape is death.
In Saudi Arabia, rapists are publicly beheaded after being sedated, while in North Korea, rapists face death by firing squad. Actually, a number of countries also use death and castration as forms of punishment.
These may sound harsh and inhumane. But when you stop behaving like a human, why should you expect to be treated like one? You are treated like the beast that you are.
Stiff penalties for those robbing people of their indispensable dignity through rape can, therefore, send a strong, correct and unambiguous message to would-be offenders.
They can go try hell.
The laws of our country must never give an impression that we are a pro-rape nation, and in stiffening the punishment for such a devious crime, Government should be applauded.
The move fits squarely within the progressive aspirations of our modern nation. Evidence from countries that imposed stiffer penalties also shows that the rates of crime decreased.
Folks, sex should be a personal decision of people of the right age that comes from their unambiguous consent. Why should such a sacrosanct right be stripped from someone? It should be preserved all the time.
Some pride themselves with wanting to do it on their honeymoon, while others may want to do it after being sure that they have finally found their soul-mates.
Others consider various reasons, but the most important thing is that their decisions are motivated by their personal convictions.
To then be robbed of such a right, which can never be given back, is a horrible experience.
How do you expect someone to deal with such a painful ordeal every day they wake up, knowing that they were raped?
That they were not physically and emotionally prepared for it and suddenly it was forced upon them in the gravest of circumstances?
Some are children as young as a few months old, raped to appease the sexual demons of a whole grown up man, or kwahi ndibve ndapora Aids kana kuita mhanza yemari zhinji.
Surely, that kind of behaviour should not be tolerated and our laws should reflect that loud and clear — we are not a safe haven for rapists!
Folks, it should, however, be noted that stiffer penalties only are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end.
What should also be given attention is dealing with cultural and family practices that tend to sweep rape under the carpet in order to protect the reputation of offenders or family relations. Kwahi hazviite kushambadzira nyika yose kuti mwana akabhinywa nababa vake.
It is a mountain that should be moved.
Most victims are raped by people they know and respect and others are threatened not to speak. We should strive to create a conducive environment that encourages them to speak freely and expose rape.
In Zimbabwe, relative progress has been made, for example, through the creation of victim-friendly courts supporting quick processing of child abuse cases and bringing about justice.
Another important issue is the provision of facilities that provide emergency care to victims of rape to avoid unwanted and unplanned pregnancies as well as the transmission of diseases/infections.
While adult rape clinics have been established, they need to be intensified to more areas, especially being guided by prevalence data.
The health of victims should be prioritised.
There are also other behaviours and activities that often times make young people, both male and female, vulnerable to rape and should be dealt with.
These include abusing alcohol or drugs, involvement in sex work, “wild parties” and others.
It is also important to realise that we all have a role to play in preventing and dealing with rape as members of society.
What we see and hear might help officials to reduce the growing trend of rape.
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