AT least one girl below the age of 16 years is raped every two hours in Zimbabwe, statistics have shown, amid widespread concerns over the escalating numbers of child marriages being recorded throughout the country.
Data obtained from the National Aids Council (Nac) Gender and Workplace department, shows that an average of 392 female juveniles were sexually abused monthly last year, translating to an average of 13 girls having been raped daily.
The data which originated from the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (Zimstat) shows a 30 percent increase in cases of sexual abuse of female juveniles from 2013.
According to the statistics, the most vulnerable age group are girls aged between 11 and 16 years who constitute about 68 percent of the total number of girls abused throughout 2014.
A total 4 714 of girls younger than 16 years were raped in 2014, up from 3 297 recorded in 2013 and 3 168 cases reported in 2012, showing a continued rise in cases of sexual abuse of young girls.
At least 1 319 girls were abused in the first quarter of this year, while Information for the second quarter was not immediately available on the Zimstat website.
Efforts to get the data directly from Zimstat officials were fruitless.
Gender activists contend that the figures could even be higher, as a number of cases go unreported.
They have also raised concern over the high number in child marriages, calling on Government to put in place measures to curb child marriages.
The Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (2010-2011) shows that 33 percent of women aged between 20 and 49 were married before reaching 18 years of age, while the Zimbabwe Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey (Mics) of 2014 indicates that girls in rural areas were married before the age of 15 to spouses who were 10 years or more older than them.
Mics also reported that about 24,5 percent girls aged between 15 and 19 were already married or in union, compared to 1,7 percent of boys in that age group.
NAC gender and workplace coordinator Ms Vimbai Mdege expressed sadness at the increase of cases of young girls being sexually abused.
Attributing the high cases of abuse of young girls to a number of factors, Ms Mdege also described as mad, men who sexually abuse young girls.
“There are many factors to girl child abuse which include poverty, early marriages, abuse for ritual purposes, breakdown of social values, misconceptions with some men believing they can avoid HIV by engaging in sex with young girls. But at times I just believe its pure madness on the part of men and the laws are too weak in protecting the girl child,” she said.
Meanwhile, our Midlands correspondent reports a 46-year-old-man from Gokwe has been slapped with a 45-year jail term after he was convicted of raping and infecting his eight-year-old niece with HIV.
The man from Yellow Snake Honey Mine in Kwekwe had pleaded not guilty to raping the minor on three occasions when he appeared before Gokwe-Kwekwe regional magistrate, Mr Amos Mbobo.
He was convicted after a trial and sentenced to 15 years on each count.
Mr Mbobo, however, suspended 10 years on condition of good behaviour.
In passing the sentence, Mr Mbobo said the offender deserved a stiffer penalty considering that the child looked up to him for protection as guardian yet he sexually abused her.
The State’s case as presented by prosecutor Mr Robert Ndlala was that the man raped his niece on three different occasions and deliberately infected her with HIV.
Mr Ndlala told the court that the man was diagnosed of HIV in 2013 and was staying with the complainant while she was going to school.
Mr Ndlala said sometime in December last year on a date unknown to the prosecutor, he sneaked into the complainant’s bedroom and raped her.
The court heard that he used the same method to rape the complainant on two different occasions.
Mr Ndlala said the girl told his wife that her husband was sexually abusing her but she did not take any action and tried to conceal the heinous act.
The court also heard that the matter finally came to light when the girl visited her grandmother and told her that she was raped by her uncle on three occasions.
The matter was reported to the police leading to his arrest.
In recent weeks the country has been seized with debate on child abuse, especially child marriages and the legal age of consent to sex, following Prosecutor General Mr Johannes Tomana’s contentious remarks that girls of 12 years and above could marry if they so desired with some gender activists and legislators calling for the country’s laws to be aligned with the constitution which put the age of consent at 18 while the laws place it at 16 years.
There were also suggestions by some sections that magistrates’ courts had lowered the legal age of consent to 12 years by giving lenient sentences against offenders who would have had sex with girls older than 12 years.
Legal experts, however, explained the legal age scenario.
Constitutional lawyer Professor Lovemore Madhuku said: “The legal age of consent to sex is 16 years. That is what the law says and the courts can’t change that. Twelve years is the age relevant for the crime of rape. What that means is that if a man has sex with a girl who is below the age of 16 years but above 12 years who would have consented, they face a charge lesser to rape.
“One can even escape conviction if they manage to convince the courts that they had reason to believe that the girl was above 16. However the case is different when it comes to a girl who is below 12. Below 12 consent is disregarded and the crime will be rape. The defence that one might have been misled into believing that the girl was above 16 will not be available in this instance,” he said.
Prof Madhuku’s comments were backed by another constitutional lawyer Professor Welshman Ncube who added that the discretion to determine sentences remained with courts which consider a number of factors such as aggravation and mitigation.
“The description of the crime is determined by the age of the victim. If she is below 12, it is rape whether or not she could have consented, while if she is above 12 and she would have consented it will be an offence lesser than rape and will generally attract a much more softer sentence than rape.
“The duty to determine the length and gravity of sentencing lies with the court. Magistrates arrive at different judgments after considering a lot of factors such as mitigation and aggravation,” he said. Source: sundaynews