Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Government is working on legislation to provide mandatory sentencing for rape and sexual abuse after Cabinet unanimously agreed that there was need for stiffer sentences such as life in prison for perpetrators, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has said. Speaking at the commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child and the launch of the national HeForShe Campaign, VP Mphoko said the country was experiencing intolerable levels of violence against women and girls.
“I am informed that the Attorney-General’s Office is already working on legislation to provide for mandatory sentencing for rape and sexual abuse. As Cabinet, we unanimously agreed that we need these stiffer sentences such as sentencing perpetrators to life in prison.
“I urge the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to expedite passage of the bill through Parliament. Another equally disturbing phenomenon is the issue of child marriage, where girls as young as six years are married off,” he said.
VP Mphoko said child marriage through pledging and coercing young girls to become wives is a criminal and malicious evil which cannot be tolerated. He said the country’s constitution had set the age of marriage at 18 years and Government was calling for the urgent alignment of the Constitutional Ruling of January 2016 to the constitution.
In the first quarter of this year, he said, the Zimbabwe Republic Police recorded increased cases of raping of minors. “How can a sound and level-headed man rape his or her own daughter or his niece? The people who are supposed to be protecting our girls have turned into predators and monsters that prey on unwitting, innocent and loving children.
“Traditionally, the girl child has been marginalised due to socio-cultural values and practices that inhibit the girl from attaining her full potential. The unequal gender relations in our society that favour men and boys continue to pose a huge burden on the girl child,” he said.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe, he said, is dubbed the women’s document as it addresses among other things, the Legal Age of Majority Act in areas where the girl child’s inheritance rights were denied.
VP Mphoko said Government was committed to fully addressing the interests and needs of the girl child. He said there was need for boys to shift their attitudes towards women and girls as statistics indicate that they are the perpetrators of 99 percent of gender based violence cases.
Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister, Nyasha Chikwinya said achieving gender equality requires an innovative, inclusive approach which both recognises men and boys as partners for women rights and acknowledges the ways in which they also benefit from equality.
“HeForShe invites men and boys to build on the work of the women’s movement as equal partners, crafting and implementing a shared vision of gender equality that will benefit all of humanity.”
“HeForSHe, a campaign initiated by UN Women is a solidarity movement for gender equality that provides a systematic approach and targeted platform on which men and boys can engage and become change agents towards the achievement of gender equality,” she said.
Child president Tinaye Mbavari said the girl child in Zimbabwe faced the problem of child marriage and rape among others.
“Pasi nababamukuru vanohwanda nechiramu to abuse the girl child. Pasi nevabereki vanoroodza mhandara kuripa ngozi. Pasi nevaberekei vanoona danga panozvarwa vanasikana hatisi mombe,” she said.