Gender Gender

Of sex crimes in the family

Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
NO DOUBT, crimes of a sexual nature are among the most pressing social problems Zambia is grappling with.
Breaking news of sexual assault of children has now become like a tired song with inconsequential effects on society, because children are sexually molested almost every day.
However, defilement of children, which carries a minimum jail sentence of 15 years and 25 years maximum, has taken a new twist to incest, surprisingly involving fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and other males related to the victims.
In normal circumstances, the family should be a safe haven for children against all forms of social threats because that’s where people who hold their best interests at heart are found.
In an ideal family, one should not worry about the vulnerability of girl children to sexual assault within the confines of a family, because it is taboo for kin to get sexually attracted to kinsfolk.
It is actually against the order of nature for people to have sexual relations with their relatives or to marry within the family.
Alas, the sexual onslaught of children is happening within the family, while incestuous affairs among in-laws and other relatives are also happening within the family.
A number of cases have lately been reported about stepfathers defiling stepdaughters under their custody.
For example, a 20-year-old woman of Kasempa is six months pregnant for her stepfather who has been keeping her.
The young woman’s mother actually caught her in the act with her step-dad two weeks ago after which the man, aged 41, took his life.
Northern Province Commissioner of Police Hudson Namachila, who confirmed the incident, said it happened on January 9, 2019, when one Friday Katoka was caught pants down with his stepdaughter by wife Rozina Ngondoma.
Rozina then rushed to inform her relatives about the abominable act she had just uncovered, but on her return, she found that her husband had committed suicide.
In similar circumstances, a politician took his life in Kitwe last year after a niece he had defiled decided to expose him to other relatives.
The man’s wife was not home when he pounced on a girl they were keeping and had sex with her.
After the incident, the girl fled from home and opted to alert her parents, who were staying in another township, probably for possible prosecution of the matter.
On noticing that the girl had left home in fury, the culprit phoned her and tried to talk her into sweeping the case under the carpet, but she reportedly wouldn’t budge to pressure.
When he realised that the victim was serious about spilling the beans to the family and that obviously they would turn him in to the police, the man took his life soon after the incident.
Had the victim succeeded in reporting the man for defilement or rape (if she was over the age of 16), it would have been his second indictment, having been put on trial before for the alleged sexual assault of his 15-year-old niece.
In his earlier indictment, the man had escaped a jail sentence by a mere legal technicality.
Obviously the cases that are reported in the media are a tip of the iceberg because the majority victims of defilement, incest and rape do not report cases to law enforcers.
The mothers or wives who are often victims of circumstances or possible witnesses in these cases, always put family ‘interest’ before the physical and mental well-being of victims of abuse.
For example, an average woman would not report her husband to police for defilement/incest because she risks losing her marriage and source of livelihood for the family.
Similarly, other relatives would rather defend their erring kin to protect the integrity of the family and keep it close-knit although the ties are in the real sense cracking.
There are very few women who are as courageous as the Kasempa woman who opted to report her daughter and husband to the police for committing incest.
Obviously society would overlook the duo’s wrongdoing and blame Rozina for ‘causing’ her husband’s death only because she decided to expose his illicit affair with his stepdaughter.
And because most perpetrators of sexual crimes act irrationally when caught or exposed, this tends to cow victims and possible witnesses to sweep the dirt under the carpet so as to escape the wrath of society.
This is why many victims opt for out-of-court settlements, and sometimes relatives resort to blaming victims of defilement.
In the middle of the negative occurrences, it is encouraging to see a few courageous families, like this particular one in Luano district that had a man prosecuted for defiling his stepdaughter.
The man, identified as Simon Munkombwe, was jailed for 25 years with hard labour by the Kabwe High Court last week for defiling his 15-year-old step-daughter.
Munkombwe, 42, took advantage of his wife’s absence from home to force himself on his stepdaughter. The court heard that the culprit essentially seized the girl and threw her on his bed to defile her.
The court of law was actually surprised by the culprit’s callous act and Justice Kelvin Limbani said this in awe: “The court wonders what enjoyment you got from the victim which you do not get from your wife.”
Honestly, I echo Mr Justice Limbani’s sentiments because I don’t understand why a married man would subject a child to such mental and physical torture.
I also don’t understand why all of a sudden, we have so many cases of stepfathers casting eyes on their stepdaughters.
A stepdaughter is as good as one’s biological daughter and there should be no need for a mother to feel threatened by having her husband around her daughter.
Some people claim that sexual crimes against children are on the rise because perpetrators believe that having sexual contact with a virgin would cure them of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Who in this day and age would believe that nonsense that has no scientific backing?
Perhaps there could be some witch doctors misleading some of our men. But in my opinion, most of the culprits are driven by untamed lust.
To the list of cases I have made reference to, you can add the many cases from the local courts where kin arraign kinsfolk for flirting with their wives or husbands.
In my view, the family is no longer a safe haven for girl children and parents ought to be alert, otherwise things could be happening under their noses.
Girls are vulnerable to sexual abuse at home as much as they are out there. And what’s more, incestuous affairs are more common among people living under the same roof than kinsfolk living in separate homes.
As parents we will do well to introduce non-fraternising rules among male and female members of our families and to keep our eyes wide open.
Girl children should actually be made aware about their vulnerability to sexual abuse within the family set-up so that they are able to raise alarm when danger lights start flickering.
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