No bail, no bond, for rape suspects is the slogan many Zambians are chanting, in response to the recent rise in child rape numbers in the Southern African country.
Child molestation in Zambia, is running rampant and many residents are fed-up.
Joining calls by activists for stiffer laws, some citizens feel perpetrators should be sentenced to death, while others want rape suspects denied bail.
Incidents On The Rise
Child rape cases in Zambia, have become a common occurrence, with no signs of reducing.
In fact, a report released recently, by the Zambia police, on it’s website, shows a 10.9 percent increase in the third quarter of 2018, compared to previous quarters.
“A total of 664 cases of Child Defilement were recorded”, says the report, issued by police spokesperson, Esther Mwata Katongo.
Katongo added that three of those cases were against boys while 661 were against girls.
In the first two weeks of June this year alone, not less than three child defilement cases were reported.
The case that shocked many citizens the most, involved a 35-year-old father in Luapula province, north of Zambia.
He allegedly molested his three-day old daughter, causing injuries and excessive bleeding, which later killed her.
The Call For Tighter Laws
Calls to deny suspects bail or bond are gaining traction on social media.
Caroline Kalembwe Kalunga, a mother and social worker, who is also a child rights activist, believes that scrapping bail is the only solution, as no amount of talk will stop the vice.
“Activists have spoken but still, the number of cases is increasing every day.
This is alarming and the reason is, culprits know that they can get away because of bail. Let’s take out bail and put a stop to this cancer that is robbing our kids childhoods,” Kalunga appeals.
However, denying suspects bail, would go against the presumption of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, which is a fundamental human right, according to the Human Rights Commission of Zambia.
“Similarly, the right to liberty is a fundamental human right. Therefore, it would be a human rights concern, and in fact tantamount to extra judicial punishment to deny rape suspects police bond or bail,” says the commission’s spokesperson, Mweelwa Muleya.
“We should strive towards having all offences bondable and bailable, and only leave the discretion to the police to deny bond or the courts to deny bail on serious crimes rather than making the denial mandatory.
Otherwise innocent people may suffer injustice after wrongly or maliciously being accused of committing a crime,” he concludes.
Rape for rituals
Abraham Muhela, a fruit trader, on the streets of Lusaka, says the most effective deterrent would be capital punishment for all rapists.
“It has gotten out of hands and it’s because rapists know that even if they go to prison, they will eventually be released. So the best punishment would be to sentence them to death. This will scare potential rapists,” he reckons.
Regarding rape that is perpetrated by the victims’ fathers, Muhela puts it down to witch craft rituals, saying some men who want to grow their businesses and get rich quickly, are allegedly advised by which doctors to practice rituals that require sleeping with their daughters, in order to unlock desired wealth.
Patriarchy As A Child Rape Enabler
But Sara Longwe, a feminist and past chairperson for the Non-governmental Gender Organisations Coordinating Council, says child rape is mainly a result of patriarchal beliefs, grossly entrenched in the Zambian society.
Women often hide or withdraw child rape cases, if perpetrated by their husbands, for fear of further victimization or losing their marriages, which society expects them to protect.
As such, Longwe observes that stopping that, requires helping victims to report their ordeal and encouraging them not to withdraw their cases under any enticement from their rapists.
Additionally, “school curriculum should include comprehensive sexual education,” she observes.
She says further, that pro-bono support needs to be mobilized, in the litigation against rapists to ensure many convictions, among other solutions.
A ‘Violence Against Children in Zambia’, study carried out by UNICEF, late last year revealed that females were more likely to experience physically forced sex in child-hood, compared to males, with most perpetrators having a close relationship with their victims.
The study, which was released in November, 2018, calls on governments and stakeholders to have well-coordinated response strategies, programmes and policies, to address abuse and violence against children.