Women’s rights organisations advocate for stiffer penalties for perpetrators of sexual crimes

WOMEN’S organisations have called for stiffer penalties ranging from at least 30 to 60 years as sentences for rapists as cases of sexual abuse of women and girls continue to rise in Zimbabwe.

Statistics from the Zimbabwe Gender Commission show that 22 women are raped daily, one in every 75 minutes.

On average, 646 women are sexually abused monthly, with one in three girls raped or sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18 in Zimbabwe.

Civic organisations have also raised concern over the rising number of rape cases which was worsened by COVID-19 induced lockdowns since last year.

Women’s rights organisations have advocated that stiffer penalties be given to perpetrators to deter potential rapists from abusing women.

Musasa project petitioned Parliament early this year arguing 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 get away with rape.

In an interview after the parliamentary public hearings which were held in different provinces across the country this week, Sandra Mlambo from Bulawayo said it was time Zimbabwe took drastic measures to weed out rapists.

“We were happy to see legislators making time to hear us out on how best to deal with rapists. Sexual abuse cases have been on the rise because perpetrators knew they could easily get away with these crimes,” said Mlambo.

“These men deserve to get more jail time than what they are getting now to deter them from abusing women and girls. We wish legislators will come up with relevant amendments that will protect women and girls.”

Patricia Moyo from Plumtree said the mandatory sentence will help her community deal with rape as there were hundreds of unreported cases. She said rape was rife in Plumtree and many girls were suffering in silence.

“We have well known rapists in the community who are walking scot-free after raping or sexually abusing girls in these villages.  I think we need to review these laws and ensure that one goes to jail for at least 30 years so that we can be at peace,” said Moyo.

“I think if we have mandatory sentences, would be rapists will be deterred and many lives saved from trauma. Even those who bed minors should be treated as rapists as we have some families who are still comfortable with marrying off their underage daughters just to have access to food and livestock,” added Moyo.

For Sinokuthaba Ncube from Nkayi, mandatory sentencing will also protect members of the public from corrupt law enforcers.

“We have had people raping our girls but because they are well connected to those in power after a week or so they are released. However once this mandatory sentencing is imposed, rapists will go to jail for a long time so that we are protected as communities,” highlighted Ncube.

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