Vigilance key in anti-rape fight
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.