High-level support for 15-year minimum rape sentences

Herald Correspondent 

There is strong support for the proposed minimum mandatory 15-year jail term for all rapists, with many saying it will deter the criminals and reverse the rising number of sexual assault cases.

The provision for a mandatory sentence for rape is one of four sets of amendments sought in the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Amendment Bill gazetted last week. It will amend section 65 of the principal Act to put 15 years as the minimum mandatory sentence for rape and aggravated indecent assault, a similar crime where it is a man who is penetrated without consent.

“Finally, rapists will get what they deserve, men have been raping women willy nilly and escaping jail because of light penalties they were receiving. Men have been committing rape knowing that they won’t stay long in prison so this move will definitely reduce rape crimes,” Ms Vivian Muzekezeke from Chitungwiza said yesterday.

Another concerned citizen Miss Miriam Posiano (17) a high school student equated rape to death.

“I believe someone who is capable of rape should be sentenced to death because he would have killed somebody’s life. The pain, torture of living with that in mind is very horrible. Imagine our generation ( ama2k) is failing to keep their virginity and someone just comes and takes it away. It’s inhuman. How would I explain to my future husband? Why should I suffer because of someone?” she said.

Ms Salma Ishumael (18) hailed the mandatory minimum sentence and said: “This is good news especially to us as the girl child because serial rapists are destroying our future by raping young girls who end up committing suicide after the terrible experience. There should be no remorse for rapists because it affects us emotionally, physically and even reduces how we perform in school.”

Mrs Vareria Pinjisi, a professional counsellor, also echoed the same sentiments likening post effects of rape to prison conditions.

“ This is a good move because as a grown up woman I won’t be able to fight the stigma in our community after being raped because even my husband will not take that issue lightly, he ends up accusing you of infidelity. 

“It’s a lifetime wound. A rapist will only endure few years of pain but the victims will suffer for the rest of their lives so we are in the right direction, the sentence should even go up to life imprisonment,” she said. Her husband, Pastor Anywhere Pinjisi said although sterner penalties were welcome, the proposed mandatory sentence would be tantamount to death. 

“The proposed 15-year jail term is a warning to all men but I feel like it is more like a death sentence because very few can survive 15 years in jail. 

“As a pastor I believe in correcting people and our prisons were renamed to correctional services meaning that they are meant to correct wrong doings.  If a sentence result in one’s death what will we be correcting because there is a lot which happens behind the bars,” he said.

Mr Reginald Ngwarati, a researcher said the mandatory sentence was welcome but raised concern over the weaponisation of rape charges.

“Rape even in the bible has been used to settle scores and many men go to prison accused of rape they didn’t even commit. We should be in possession of the required technology to prove rape. We have seen prominent people being dragged to court over rape charges. Fortunate they have money to hire the best lawyers on the land, but how about those who cannot afford a lawyer?”

Reacting to the bill, legal expert Advocate Obert Gutu said the bill was long overdue.

“It’s not an issue of women against men or men against women because anyone can be a victim of rape and benefit from this act,” he said. 

“Any serious man should not be worried about the minimum sentence normally when we gazette stern penalties for rape they are meant to act as a deterrent measure. 

“We only expect relevant law enforcement agencies to carry out proper investigations, proper forensics and courts should fully ventilate evidence presented so that you are subjected to a very fair trial.”

Advocate Gutu also gave an example of South Africa where a rapist can be slapped with life imprisonment. 

“I would advocate for life imprisonment as the maximum sentence. What’s the logic of having a mandatory sentence of up to 10 years for stealing livestock and complain about 15 year jail term.

“If we place so much value on livestock what value can we put on human beings. Quite honestly human beings are created in the image of God. In law it is meant to prevent recidivism meaning it will prevent recurrence of rape crimes after an individual serves prison time for the same crime,” he said.

The latest official data indicate that an average 22 women were now filing rape cases on daily basis between January 2020 and December 2021. Police report that more than 16 000 cases of rape were reported in the two years to December 2021, with 7 377 reporting in 2020 and 8 715 last year. Part of the increase in reports is attributed to the greater willingness of victims to make reports, although it is suspected from anonymous surveys that a large number of victims do not report.

As part of the ongoing reform programme, the authorities are considering raising the statute of limitations — the time limit for filing charges against an alleged offender — for sexual offences to 40 years, double the present 20 years in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

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