GENDER FOCUS with EMELDA MWITWA
HAVING carnal knowledge of a woman by force is one of the worst things a man could do. The trauma is unimaginable;Â with lifelongÂ pain, the wound leaves indelible marks. If only people could switch positions, and men who go on rampage raping women and children are put on the receiving end even for a moment, they would vow never to do it again.
What is worse is that sexual violence against women is now being perpetuated by armed robbers. Young men on a mission to steal, armed with stones, machetes or firearms have developed a habit of having carnal knowledge of their female victims. As if rape is not bad enough, bandits are now taking turns raping a woman. A lot of women have reported being gang-raped by a group of four or five bandits. Some women have met their fate by crossing the paths of bandits either on their way to committing crime or on their return from their banditry missions. Other women are victims of crime who are molested after a burglary at their home and some may happen to be on board a hijacked vehicle.
Apparently sexual violence is widespread in Zambia â€“ there are those men who force themselves on women, girls, including babies, out of greed and utter disrespect for human rights; others are influenced by traditional beliefs that sex with a virgin will cure HIV and AIDS or that it will make them rich.
Now bandits have also joined the sexual onslaught of women and girl children. And because of the tendency of new forms of sexual violence becoming a norm among outlaws, the bandits who go on rampage raping women must be stopped.
This is exactly what has been happening to cases of child defilement; it all started with a few perverts raping children, and now many other men are forcing themselves on children, babies inclusive, for reasons best known to themselves.
It may seem like we are fighting a losing battle, but with vigilance and firm application of the law, we will slowly be winning.
For this reason, the decision by the Lusaka High Court to jail three rapists for life could not pass without comment. This happened last week when Lusaka High Court judge Chalwe Mchenga sentenced the trio, including a taxi driver, to life imprisonment after finding them guilty of raping women and robbing people in Lusakaâ€™s Kamwala South residential area.
The condemned criminals – Given Phiri, 24, a businessman of Chipata Overspill, Michael Mwanza, 27, of Kamwala South and Kingstone Moyo, 23, a taxi driver of Chipata Overspill – were convicted of six counts of aggravated robbery and four counts of rape.
The three, armed with pistols, robbed six people of money and various items such as phones and automated teller machine (ATM) cards in Lusaka.
During their robberies, Phiri, Mwanza and Moyo raped four women sometime in July 2015.
During one of their robberies against a couple, they beat up the husband and placed him in the boot of their car and drove to a hidden place where they raped his wife.
Obviously the trio attacked many people in similar fashion before they met their waterloo, and their victims are right now nursing emotional wounds which may not heal completely.
This is one of the rare cases where the jury makes a firm verdict against lawless characters who feel a woman is a tool they can just grab to quench insatiable desires.
Without doubt, Mr Justice Mchengaâ€™s verdict will send a warming message to other bandits who have been sexually molesting women in the capital, Lusaka, and other parts of the country. I hope that we will see more of such firm application of the law against men who have gone of rampage having carnal knowledge of women, girl children and infants.
One would wish that men who defile children could get similar deterrent sentences, but unfortunately some of them get lighter sentences, while the majority go unpunished because people donâ€™t want to expose the culprits, while others opt for out-of-court settlements.
For your information the prevalence of child defilement in Zambia has grown from 870 reported cases in 2002 to over 2,000 cases in 2016. This means that a total of 7,518 girls have been defiled between 2014 and 2016.
These were the cases that were reported to the Zambia Police Service, and obviously the figure will surge if we add unreported cases.
According to the Penal Code, defilement, defined as any carnal knowledge of any girl under the age of 16, carries a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment.
So the law must be applied to the fullest to cage people who rape children, leaving them severely disabled, and sometimes even taking away the toddlersâ€™ lives.
Let me end by giving kudos to the Lusaka High Court for caging the three bandits who had gone on a sexual orgy against defenceless women. This should be the way to go against sexual violence.
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GENDER FOCUS with EMELDA MWITWA