SPOTLIGHT ON SODV ACT
...protecting women and girls
I must indicate that to many conservative men, this law is not sitting well with them and are looking for a slightest excuse to amend it. This is demonstrated by the sentiments of a number of prominent men within Senate and in the previous Parliament who are against this law, but because our previous laws failed dismally to protect women and children, it was felt this law does not only empower women, but restores their dignity and respect by securing their rights, especially the girl child
In the past week, the issue under the spotlight has been the alleged rape of a UNESWA student in September by a prince. The name of the prince so far has been kept under wraps because to date he has not been charged for the alleged offence.
He has already given his side of the story and denies the allegations, but stressed that he was willing and available to cooperate with the police on the matter should they approach him.
On the other hand, calls to lock him up have mounted, with civil society groups going to the extent of creating an online petition and even marched to the police to demand for answers.
Between the police and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), questions are being asked as to who is now failing the alleged rape survivor, who is supposed to be protected by the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act of 2018.
The DPP’s Office has claimed though that the docket or file of the said offence has not been submitted to them to determine whether the allegations against the accused constitute a criminal conduct that can be prosecuted under the country’s laws, in particular the SODV Act.
It is not my intention today to discuss the alleged case until full facts are presented before the court of law and the alleged suspect convicted or acquitted.
However, I want to discuss the frenzy around the SODV Act. It is one thing to push for the enactment of a law, and it is quite another to
Look, many women and children find refuge under this law. They feel safe and protected by its provisions. At least this was the intention when it was promulgated.
But, even a good law if poorly implemented, may quickly alienate a nation to the point of revolting against its existence.
I must indicate that to many conservative men this law is not sitting well with them and are looking for a slightest excuse to amend it.
This is demonstrated by the sentiments of a number of prominent men within Senate and in the previous Parliament who are against this law, but because our previous laws failed dismally to protect women and children, it was felt this law does not only empower women, but restores their dignity and respect by securing their rights, especially the girl child.Whilst men who abuse women and girls ruin their lives, it is equally true that a good law may be abused to the point that innocent souls may find themselves rotting in jail, hence the need to spend more money into educating the populace about it and its implications.
This is so because it is a revolutionary which punishes behaviour that was previously treated as casual and just being naughty.
It is one thing to teach the law enforcement agencies but it appears the populace would need to be taught on how this law operates or what it seeks to regulate.
For instance, this law criminalises any maintenance of a sexual relationship between an adult with a minor, who is below the age of 18.
The penalty for such a previously ‘acceptable’ conduct is now punitive. In a recent case in Nhlangano, a man was close to spending years in jail when his wife alleged that she did not consent to sex, therefore forced (marital rape).
Whilst the initial charge was that of marital rape, upon close scrutiny, it was discovered that it was not the case, the woman had consented to sex. In fact, the two quarrelled over something totally different to the alleged offence, which led to common assault.
Had the court been not careful in dealing with this case, the husband could be languishing in jail for marital rape.
It is important that whilst police or the DPP’s Office, during investigation stage, takes it time to properly scrutinise the offence, the public must also be in the know what goes into these cases. If the public is too broad, at least the survivor or relatives must know what is being investigated. To simply dismiss any enquiry into such cases with a one sentence answer ‘we are still investigating’ does not demonstrate that those dealing with the matter understand the importance of sharing information with the survivor.
Those who call for justice to be done do so because they don’t seem convinced by the law enforcers’ actions that indeed justice is being done or seen to be done.
If the secrecy persists in the investigation of such cases, soon people would say the law is of no force and effect. We cannot afford to have this law dormant because by doing so, we would be undermining the rights of women and the girl-child in particular.
Having said so, its application must be of the highest standard available. No man should be incarcerated for trumped up charges just because they have lost favour with their partners.
If we had a consortium calling for the SODV Act to be promulgated, then let’s have one that will teach people about the law, rights and responsibilities of individuals.
If there is a tougher assignment that we need to do of building a just society, then it’s a responsibility we must all embrace and accept.
Let’s vigorously fight against gender based violence against women and children, especially the girl child.