Twelve-year-old Rose (not real name) watched as her defiler was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment at the Midima Magistrate’s Court in Blantyre three weeks ago.
However, although justice has been served, she is still horrified by her experience on October 29 this year at the hands of the 32-year-old convict, a minibus driver.
The convict, someone Rose was meeting at a grocery store where her mother usually sent her to buy items, abducted her around 7pm on that fateful day as she was returning from her elder sister’s house.
“He coaxed me to go and meet his wife. It was dark and I was afraid, as such I followed him. However, I was surprised when I found five other men at the house.
“He told me his wife was away and I should just spend a night as it was late. He offered me food before showing me a place to sleep,” recalls the girl, who spoke in the presence of her mother and grandmother.
When Rose woke up in the morning, the convict told her that he had defiled her while she was sleeping but she should not mention this to anyone.
Walking with difficulties, she returned home where her mother had already reported her missing to police after she didn’t show up despite her sister saying she had seen her off.
Says Rose’s mother: “Police came and mounted a search within our area. Seeing that they were not finding her, they advised us to sleep and report back to them if she showed up.
“As soon as Rose returned, I knew something was amiss and we headed straight to police where they recorded her statement before referring us to the hospital.”
At Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital’s One-Stop Centre, a medical examination indicated she had indeed been defiled. She was offered the necessary medical attention as well as psycho-social counselling.
However, as if having to live with this experience is not enough, Rose’s movements are currently constrained. She is afraid of crossing paths with the convict’s family and friends.
Says her mother: “When the police came to arrest him, his relatives visited my brother’s house where they apologised for what had happened and pleaded with him that we should drop the case.”
When the family chose to follow the law, a similar incident repeated itself on the first day of court hearing.
“Before entering the court, I was called aside by one of his relations. When I went, over 20 people surrounded me. Then one woman started telling me that the wife to my daughter’s defiler is pregnant and has two little children, so I should consider their welfare,” says Rose’s mother.
Come the day of sentencing, Rose and her family left the court soon after the ruling was read. They had no time to celebrate the sentencing.
The mother says that at the time, most of the convict’s relatives and peers were outside the court waiting to hear what had transpired inside.
Though they didn’t celebrate at the court, Rose’s grandmother says she is happy that the case did not take long to conclude.
Her granddaughter can at least have some closure.
“What happened was a violation. We are happy that the law took its course. We wish the same for other children who are victims of sexual abuse and their cases are just rotting somewhere,” says the grandmother.
Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa), which works in partnership with the One-Stop Centre to ensure that victims of sexual violence offences, more especially children, access speedy and effective justice, is also elated that justice was served.
Chreaa monitoring and evaluation manager Siphiwe Malihera says delivery of justice for child sexual offences in the country is usually frustrated due to corruption and it is encouraging that Rose’s family got justice.
He says it is saddening that the corruption is committed by people such as police officers, magistrates and at times victims’ parents or guardians who are entrusted with the responsibility to fight justice for victims.
“For example, there are some police investigators who deliberately conduct poor investigations in order to compromise an outcome of a case because they have benefitted from it,” says Malihera.
Similarly, he alleges that there are also some prosecutors who would personally connive with a suspect or a perpetrator and influence guardians to receive a bribe allegedly from the perpetrator to withdraw a case.
Malihera says there are also cases where some magistrates are alleged to have granted bail to suspects and procrastinate to conclude the trial to let justice hang off balance in order to let the suspect loose.
He says: “Noticeably, most of such cases where money corruptly exchanges hands involve people who are rich, public figures or prominent figures of the society.
“That is why you would see that when most of such people have committed sexual violence, their cases are mostly never concluded.”
Apart from the fact that such acts are systematised thereby making them hard to see, Malihera says, sadly, they are also becoming so endemic and making the fight against the rising cases of sexual violence “so hard to be won.”
He says there is a need to educate people on the effectiveness of vigilant monitoring when sexual violence cases are reported to police all the way up to the end of a court trial.
“Through vigilant monitoring, we can win the fights against the rising cases of sexual violence and the rising cases of corruption by some unscrupulous law enforcement and judicial officers,” says Malihera.