14 February 2018

Zimbabwe: Is Castration of Paedophiles Long Overdue?

Photo: Joe Gratz/Flickr
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opinion

Dismissing, two years ago, an appeal against sentence by Sikunda Dube (57) who is serving a 20-year jail term for raping and impregnating his neighbour's 16-year-old daughter, High Court judge Justice Francis Bere called for the enactment of a law that approves castration as punishment for paedophiles.

According to the English dictionary, paedophile means a person aged 16 years or older who has a mental disorder that makes him primarily or exclusively sexually attracted towards prepubescent children.

The judge condemned men who abuse young girls to quench their appetites saying they deserve to be castrated. With our courts being inundated with rape cases involving the girl child, the judge saw it fit for the perpetrators to be punished severely. This call comes two years after the judge said rapists should be forced to part ways with their assets and money which should go towards paying medical bills and rehabilitation of victims in addition to stiff jail terms.

"You may have destroyed the victim's future by raping and impregnating her, resulting in her being a mother at a tender age. The victim is now facing a burden of single handedly raising the baby."

If these calls by the judge are something to go by then it is now long overdue given the rise of the cases day in day out. Something needs to be done as a matter of urgency.

Some of the cases which have been through the courts include a 25-year-old Gutu man who allegedly waylaid a Grade 5 girl on her way from school and raped her ,a cabman and his friend allegedly took turns in raping a nine-year-old school girl.

A 76-year-old Chivhu man was arrested on allegations of raping his five granddaughters aged between three and seven years on several occasions.

A chaplain and a teacher at Matthew Rusike Children's Home in Epworth have been hauled before the courts for allegedly sexually abusing vulnerable children under their care.

It seems as if the moral obligation bestowed in some members of the society has gone to the dogs, given that most of these paedophiles are taking advantage of the vulnerability of innocent souls in their custody.

In 2015, Senators, in their bid to end child marriages, demanded that Government enacts laws that approve castration as punishment for anyone who sleeps with a child below the age of 18. They insisted that parents or guardians who accept lobola from those who marry under age children, should face prosecution together with the culprits.

But the question always remains when that law will come into being.

Evidence shows that sexual violence can have serious short and long-term physical, psychological and social consequences not only for the victims, but also for their families and communities. This includes increased risks of illness, unwanted pregnancy, stigma, discrimination and difficulties at school.

According to Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStats) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Most of the girls aged 12 years and above were sexually abused in the homes of their boyfriends while those below 12 were mostly abused at their homes by their guardians.

Children aged 13 to 16 years old made up close to 50 percent of the cases with over 70 percent of all abuses happening in urban areas. Over 90 percent of child sexual abuse perpetrators were males and the average perpetrator age was 22. The children reported that sexual abuse occurred more than once in over 40 percent of the cases.

Unicef's commitment to the convention on the rights of the child engages different Government sectors that include justice, social welfare, education, health,legislators, civil society, community leaders, media, families and children themselves. It also works with communities and the public to raise awareness about the problem and address attitudes, norms and practices that are harmful to children. Women with a history of sexual abuse show greater evidence of sexual dysfunction and depression more than those that have not been abused.

In most cases if these children fail to access proper counselling, they become promiscuous and have an increased risk of victimisation.

Significant others in society tend to apply "blame the victim phenomenon" to these children instead of blaming the society because it is its mandate to safeguard the rights of the children.

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