‘Life sentences for child rapists’

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese has said life sentences should be imposed on rapists who target children, in order to effectively deter would-be offenders following an increase in child sexual abuse cases.

By Tinashe Mungazi

Officially opening the Hwange High Court circuit at Hwange Magistrates’ courts yesterday, Justice Makonese said the courts had noted with concern that the harsh prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years were not deterring offenders.

“Whilst I’m still on matters of the family it is saddening to note that cases of child sexual abuse continue to increase. The harsh sentences ranging between 10 and 20 years imprisonment being imposed by the courts, depending on the circumstances do not appear to deter offenders. My view is that in appropriate circumstances, especially where mature adult persons rape girls as young as two years, life imprisonment should be imposed. Such offenders should be completely removed from society and locked away for the rest of their lives so that they do not re-offend,” he said.

He said what was disturbing was that in most cases the offenders were HIV positive thereby exposing their victims to the risk of infection.

Justice Makonese also blamed traditional beliefs for exploitation of girls.

“It seems most relationships are being stretched by the prevailing economic conditions. Archaic traditional beliefs also contribute to child sexual abuse, as some men believe that having sexual relations with young girls enhances their financial fortunes. Our traditional leaders and civic organisations have a critical role to play in educating the masses.”

The judge also raised a red flag on the increase in gruesome murders committed by mentally challenged offenders.

He said mental illness was not being given enough attention, with some doctors exacerbating the problem by releasing patients into society without effective monitoring mechanisms.

The offici al opening was attended by chiefs, mining captains, government departments, service chiefs and the legal fraternity among others.

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