Jail for Zimbabwe men who publicly stripped woman hoped to deter sex pests

by Marko Phiri | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 27 March 2015 16:28 GMT

Jail for Zimbabwe men who publicly stripped woman hoped to deter sex pests

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, March 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - T he jailing of two Zimbabwe men who accosted a woman in a mini-skirt in the capital Harare and stripped her naked was welcomed by women's rights activists on Friday who hoped the sentence would act as a deterrent to other sex offenders.

Marvellous Kandemiri, 32, and Blessing Chinodakufa, 31, were given 12-month jail sentences by a Harare magistrate for the attack last December with four months suspended on condition of good behaviour.

State prosecutors told the court the pair were part of a group of about 40 men who accused the woman of "improper dressing" at a bus terminal and publicly humiliated her by ripping her clothes off.

The two were arrested after video footage of the assault went viral on social media and the high-profile case prompted calls for tougher penalties for sex offenders who have got off with fines as low as US$5 in the past, police data showed.

Magistrate Rekina Dzikiti said a jail sentence was appropriate, describing the pair's actions as "barbaric, inhuman and degrading". She said she hoped it would serve as a message.

"It is the duty of every citizen to tolerate and care for one another not to strip one another and a woman for that matter. It is like throwing our culture to the dogs," she told the court.

"A custodial sentence will drive a certain message to other people out there."

The case attracted widespread condemnation with women rights activists demanding harsher sentences to combat an apparent increase in the number of public attacks on women.

Zimbabwe police figures released last June showed 11,000 women were raped between 2012 and March 2014, with almost 7,500 of these aged under 16, which appeared to be a rise in numbers although accurate statistics were said to be hard to pin down.

The attack came just two months after hundreds of women in the southern African nation staged "mini skirt marches" to protest against sexual harassment of women and what they saw as leniency by courts in dealing with offenders.

The protests are part of a growing outcry from women in Zimbabwe over their treatment in the streets, lack of parliamentary seats and workplace discrimination.

Gender rights activists led by legislator Jessie Majome, the former Deputy Minister of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development, are pushing for stiffer sentencing for sex offenders.

She welcomed the jail term for the two offenders but said it should have been longer.

"I wonder why they did not get up to 5 years which is what the law stipulates," Majome told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. (Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.