Unpacking sexual crimes in Zimbabwe,starting with rape in Zimbabwe

Sexual crimes are a menace to society and they leave a trail of destruction that is indelible. The long-lasting negative effects of sexual crimes on the victims are something unbearable for anyone to go through. A couple of sexual offences have been properly codified (they were previously under common law) and are contained in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23]. However, not so many people are aware of the provisions of the law and this new series seeks to impart some fair knowledge into how sexual offences are provided for in the Code.

Rape is a very serious sexual offence in any part of the world. Rape is provided for under Section 65 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. It provides what constitutes rape:

(1) If a male person knowingly has sexual intercourse or anal sexual intercourse with a female person and, at the time of the intercourse-

(a) the female person has not consented to it; and

(b) he knows that she has not consented to it or realises that there is a real risk or possibility that she may not have consented to it;

he shall be guilty of rape and liable to imprisonment for life or any shorter period.

Basically this is what rape entails. There are some fallacies as regards rape that need to be debunked. Rape does not only mean that there is brutal and forcible sexual attack by a stranger on an innocent woman in her home or anywhere else. It does not only mean a woman puts up resistance and has scars to show for it. It does not only mean the rapist is unknown.

There has always been a worrying trend in that some women delay to report rape and this is due to a myriad of factors that include fear of lack of support from the family, fear of the consequences that may ensue if she reports, being blamed for the event, fear of being thrown out, and many other cultural factors.  One should not be quick to blame a girl or a woman for failing to report quickly if they have not carefully considered these factors.

It must be noted that a husband can rape his wife, and in such circumstances only the Attorney-General must authorize prosecution (Section 68 of the Code). A boy under 12 cannot commit rape – he lacks capacity. But there is rebuttable presumption where the boy is 12 but under 14 – the boy can be gulty if the presumption is rebutted and the elements of the crime satisfied. A girl under 12 cannot consent to sexual intercourse, there is irrebutable presumption. There is rebuttable presumption if the girl is over 12 but under 14 – the accused will be guilty of rape unless there is evidence that the girl is capable of giving consent to sexual intercourse and did not give her consent. Accused will still be guilty of unlawful sexual intercourse with girl who is under 16.

The punishment for rape is life imprisonment or any shorter period. If the accused actually infected the victim with HIV it is a seriously aggravating circumstance. If the accused at the time of rape has HIV or whether or not he knew he was infected or whether or not he actually infected her he must be sentenced to a minimum of ten years.

Scholars have noted that rape is “the ultimate invasion of privacy” and leads to a long-lasting form of “rape-trauma syndrome”.

 

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