Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
A local non-governmental organisation, Katswe Sisterhood, has petitioned Parliament to enact a law barring revenge pornography to protect individuals from having their nude pictures or videos published without their consent. Revenge pornography is defined as the distribution of sexually explicit pictures or videos of an individual without their consent mainly done by a scorned ex-lover to seek revenge after a relationship has gone sour.
National Assembly Speaker, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, told Members of Parliament last week that the petition had since been forwarded to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
“I have to inform the House that on 19th February, 2016, I received a petition from Katswe Sisterhood imploring Parliament to urgently enact an appropriate legislation to protect people from non-consensual publication of explicit material,” said Adv Mudenda.
“The petition has been referred to the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in terms of Standing Order Number 186 of the National Assembly Standing Rules and Orders.”
According to the Constitution, every citizen has a right to petition Parliament so that it can enact a law.
Section 149 (1) states that; “Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has a right to petition Parliament to consider any matter within its authority, including the enactment, amendment or repeal of legislation.”
Subsection (2) adds that: “The manner in which petitions are to be presented to Parliament, and the action that Parliament is to take on presentation of a petition, must be prescribed in Standing Orders.” Both mainstream media and social media have been publishing explicit materials such as sex tapes and nude pictures.
Katswe Sisterhood is a young women-led movement fighting for the full attainment of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) by women in Zimbabwe.
In the petition seen by The Herald, the NGO said it was concerned by the growing use of explicit images and film footage (non-consensual publication of explicit material); to humiliate, intimidate, dehumanise and degrade people’s lives in general and women’s lives and livelihoods in particular.
“Extremely concerned by the devastating effect which such publications have had on women’s lives and livelihoods;
“Disturbed by the absence of a criminal law protecting the privacy of private communications involving sexual expression from publication without a subject’s consent;
“Aware of the fact that the criminal justice system allows victims without the resources for private legal action to get redress in a public forum;
“Recognising the enactment of laws to protect victims from non-consensual publication of explicit materials in other jurisdictions;
“Desirous of a society in which free expression is protected and people are protected from malicious publication of film and image for the sole purpose of causing harm, distress, humiliation and degradation;
“Now therefore the petitioners implore the National Assembly of the Parliament of Zimbabwe to reaffirm their commitment to free expression including private expressions of purely private matters; acknowledge the need for a sexual privacy law to remedy the harm and distress suffered by victims of non-consensual publication of explicit material and to quickly enact a law which prohibits the distribution of privately captured sexually explicit material without the subject’s consent.
“Wherefore your petitioners pray that your Honourable House will be pleased to take our case into favourable consideration, and allow for; the enactment of appropriate legislation to protect people from non-consensual publication of explicit materials,” read the petition.