In a country where crimes like stock theft have mandatory minimum sentences, there has been a huge outcry over rape, a crime which has destroyed many people’s lives and is yet to have a mandatory sentence.
WALPE with support from Oxfam Zimbabwe has taken up the task to run the #NoToRape campaign calling upon the government to enact a mandatory sentence on rape. On the 14th of April 2021, the organisation conducted a virtual meeting with parliamentarians to deliberate on mandatory rape sentencing. In attendance were the Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary affairs.
At the core of the meeting was the need for parliamentarians to put in place laws and policies that guarantee mandatory sentencing for rape cases in order to deal with the menace that continue to haunt women and girls in Zimbabwe.
They applauded WALPE for taking the initiative to discuss a complex but critical matter which has shuttered dreams of many women and girls around Zimbabwe.
Important points that came out of the discussion include:
• The need for a robust awareness raising campaign on the ills of rape especially in marginalised, peri-urban and rural areas.
• The need for media to play its role in reporting and following up on rape cases.
• To increase capacity of health workers and other medical facilities in clinics and hospitals especially in rural areas to deal with rape cases.
• To include law enforcers (the police) when conducting awareness campaigns so that they treat rape victims properly.
• Prosecution of perpetrators as well as enacting a mandatory minimum sentence.
• Providing support for survivors or victims.
WALPE proposed a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years and most of participants were in support of the proposal and urged the organisation to engage the Ministry of Women Affairs Small and Medium Enterprises which is also pushing for the same number of years.
The parliamentarians pledged to take up the mandatory rape sentencing issue to the house of assembly for discussion. Rape continues to be used as a weapon to silence political opponents and this affects women’s full participation in leadership and decision making processes.