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It’s unfortunate rape itself attracts life, but sexual crimes against children can be reduced to the levels of just mere assault.“The sentences aren’t deterrent and can encourage perpetrators to go on, rendering the law ineffective.”Misihairabwi-Mushonga says faced with an ineffective justice system, many parents are turning to settling matters with perpetrators without going to court, to the detriment of the victims.“For me, the biggest issue that arises is that sometimes parents are forced to opt for that person to marry their child because they aren’t sure whether justice would be properly delivered,” said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
Reforming the law is now an urgent national grievance, says Women’s Coalition chairperson Virginia Muwanigwa.“We’ve not finished aligning our laws [with the new constitution] but as far as I’m concerned, the constitution overrides all other laws.“It’s unfortunate that our courts are still using the old legislation which has no place in today’s society,” said Muwanigwa.
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He said: “The law does not provide sufficient protection for young girls, but worse, the attitude of the judges and magistrates to sexual offences leaves a lot to be desired.
A reading of some of the judgments and decisions of magistrates demonstrates very conservative views which are influenced by patriarchy which remains dominant in our society.”Activists have attacked the law for providing refuge for child sex predators.
There’s that comparison that losing a cow is worse than having a woman raped.”Campaigners say families of victims have lost faith in the law, to the extent of making private arrangements with those who rape their children.
In May, Future Ncube, a 19-year-old Kezi herdsman who impregnated his 12-year-old “lover” was sentenced to perform 210 hours of community service by Gwanda regional magistrate Joseph Mabeza.
The law says a young person is under 16, but it’s only girls under 12 who’re protected by the irrefutable presumption that they’re incapable of consenting to sex.“A man who has sex with a 12-year-old girl may be able to escape the charge of rape if he can show that the girl was capable of giving consent and that she gave consent.
He will only be charged with a lesser offence of performing sexual intercourse or an indecent act on a young person.“This attracts a lesser sentence…
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