The Herald (Harare)

25 June 2010

Zimbabwe: Incest is Taboo and Criminal

editorial

Harare — SEXUAL deviance has been part of human societies since time immemorial, and while other perceived pervasions like homosexuality have since been accepted as normal in some societies notably the Western parts of the globe, some form of sexual deviance have remained taboo.

It is shocking that a day never passes in Zimbabwe without reading about incest. Only recently in Ruwa police are reported to have picked up a man and his daughter accused of sleeping in the same blankets.

In Dotito a man who impregnated his daughter-in-law after claiming that he was practising a family custom was this week jailed for six years.

These are just a few of the many cases involving incest.

In Zimbabwe incest is a criminal offence, and a punishable one too.

Incest is one such form of sexual delinquency. It could pass for misdirected passion mistaken for love, held as a shameful act that bespeaks of a sick society whose binding cultural value system is under siege.

It's unfortunate that cases of incest and rape are not waning, but are actually on the increase. Cases brought to the attention of the police are but a tip of the iceberg.

There are so many cases of incest occurring in the comfort of the home, and yet these may just be a fraction of cases that never get heard of as families protect the offender who in most cases is the breadwinner.

This is why we feel sexual abuse and incest cases can never be effectively dealt with at family level but at the highest level of authority.

In most cases victims are banished by the family while the main culprit is left alone.

Culturally incest is a crime punishable by paying cattle to the chief and performing rituals to appease ancestral spirits.

But with the high prevalence of child sexual abuse legislation that includes Sexual Offences Act and Domestic Violence Act, we should be able to handle this matter, of course if coupled with deterrent length custodial sentences.

We applaud the Bindura Magistrate's Court for imposing a six-year custodial sentence on the Dotito man.

There are many problems that befall child-mother involved in incestuous relationships.

When girls become mothers before they are physical and emotionally ready, the results are often tragic.

Many girls die in childbirth and even greater numbers of their babies die too.

Of great concern to children born in incestuous relationships could be the transferring of recessive deleterious genes to the innocent baby.

This is why chances of giving birth to children with abnormalities are greater in incestuous progeny.

Incest is a serious violation of basic and fundamental rights of children, particularly now with the advent of HIV and Aids that has added new dangers to the problem.

The law must take its course on all those involved in incest. It is abominable.

Prison is not the only deterrent to crimes like incest. Society also has its own deterrence measures.

It is taboo in Zimbabwe to have a sexual relationship between brother and sister, even between cousins.

Under Shona custom, it can never be allowed and no one would sanction such a marriage.

We should therefore at all times view incest as taboo and a crime.

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