Vig­i­lance key in anti-rape fight

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

PO­LICE have ex­pressed con­cern over an in­crease in rape cases in­volv­ing both women and juveniles coun­try­wide, with three cases re­ported in this edi­tion. this year alone, read­ers of this pa­per would have been alarmed by nu­mer­ous cases of rape which, in some in­stances, ended in the per­pe­tra­tors mur­der­ing their vic­tims.

in Jan­uary, eight Mafeteng men aged be­tween 16 and 28 al­legedly ab­ducted a 37-year-old woman on new Year’s Day and took turns to rape her. Mokhesi Mohlomi from thaba-tseka was sen­tenced to eight years in jail with­out an op­tion of a fine af­ter he was found guilty of rap­ing a 35-year-old woman on her way from work on 7 and 13 Jan­uary.

in the same month, a 29-year-old Mo­hale’s Hoek man al­legedly raped with a 13-year-old girl on sev­eral oc­ca­sions and im­preg­nated her. the abuse be­gan in Oc­to­ber 2015 and only came to light af­ter the girl’s grand­mother re­alised she was preg­nant.

in Fe­bru­ary, a 13-year old thaba-tseka teenager al­legedly raped a three-year-old. the tod­dler’s mother found her child, who had been play­ing out­side the house, naked and cry­ing with the half-naked sus­pect was stand­ing next to the vic­tim.

Also in Fe­bru­ary, a 31-year-old Qacha’s nek man al­legedly sodomised a 12-year-old boy and had threat­ened to kill him should he re­port the sex­ual abuse to any­one. Mean­while in this edi­tion, there are more cases in which tod­dlers and a woman were raped. the lat­ter case is even more tragic be­cause the vic­tim was killed af­ter be­ing raped. that sex­ual as­saults have be­come an epi­demic in Le­sotho is no longer in dis­pute. the es­ca­lat­ing cases of rape are mak­ing women live in fear, thereby deny­ing them their right to free­dom of move­ment.

Bas­ing on the afore­men­tioned cases, which are by no means ex­haus­tive, be­ing a vic­tim of rape knows no age, gen­der or even so­cial sta­tus. How­ever, it holds true that most of the vic­tims are vul­ner­a­ble groups such as mi­nors and women. em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence shows that re­ported cases are just a tip of the ice­berg, as many more go un­re­ported for var­i­ous rea­sons, chief among them ret­ro­gres­sive cul­tural, tra­di­tional and fam­ily dy­nam­ics.

some vic­tims also don’t re­port be­cause of the em­bar­rass­ment as­so­ci­ated with bring­ing the sus­pects to book while some fear be­ing blamed for what they ex­pe­ri­enced. the men­tal health ef­fects as­so­ci­ated with rape in the short-term could cause fear, anx­i­ety, eat­ing and sleep­ing dis­or­ders, shame, em­bar­rass­ment and anger while in the long-term vic­tims may con­tem­plate sui­cide.

Vic­tims may re­sort to sub­stance abuse, promis­cu­ity, in­creased sex­ual ac­tiv­ity and of­ten lack mo­ti­va­tion to use pro­tec­tion in fu­ture sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties. Chil­dren are all the more vul­ner­a­ble be­cause, in some cases, the par­ents would have died due to the HIV/AIDS scourge, leav­ing them at the mercy of adults in their vicinity. For oth­ers, their par­ents went to south Africa in search of greener pas­tures leav­ing them to the care of rel­a­tives who might end up abus­ing them.

Given such lev­els of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, it is in­cum­bent upon mem­bers of sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties to act as the vul­ner­a­ble groups’ last line of de­fence. Con­certed ef­forts by pol­icy mak­ers, churches, tra­di­tional lead­ers, fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als are also needed to stem this di­abol­i­cal vice. For in­stance, train­ing tra­di­tional lead­ers, who en­counter such sit­u­a­tions on a daily ba­sis, would go a long way in elim­i­nat­ing the bar­ri­ers to sur­vivors’ dis­clo­sure of their cir­cum­stances.

the po­lice’s role in car­ry­ing out aware­ness cam­paigns to ed­u­cate the pub­lic about rape and other as­so­ci­ated crimes is also in­valu­able. How­ever, there is also a glar­ing need for broader train­ing in­ter­ven­tions for po­lice of­fi­cers and health prac­ti­tion­ers to in­crease the ef­fec­tive­ness of their aware­ness cam­paigns and in­ter­ven­tions.

the gov­ern­ment, through the leg­is­la­ture and ju­di­ciary, also needs to take sterner mea­sures against per­pe­tra­tors with a bat­tery of new and stiffer penal­ties. More in­vest­ment is also needed in hu­man and ma­te­rial re­sources to ex­am­ine sur­vivors of rape and sex­ual vi­o­lence as well as train­ing of care­givers to at­tend to rape cases.

ul­ti­mately, the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity lies with par­ents who need to en­sure they don’t leave their chil­dren with male rel­a­tives with a propen­sity for rape. Women should also avoid walk­ing alone in se­cluded ar­eas.

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