Does our criminal justice system provide safe haven for rapists?
Posted Wednesday, October 23 2013 at 01:00
Corruption and underfunding, which has created understaffing in these institutions, also further compound the problem. These loopholes in our criminal justice system have provided a safe haven to rapists and defilers in this country.
Rape has widely been indiscriminately deployed as a “weapon” of war in war zones. Zainab (36), a refugee at Kyangwali Refugee Camp in Uganda once narrated her ordeal to an official of UNHCR of how she was gang-raped together with her 12-year old daughter by 10 Congolese militias after they made her watch her husband die.
Here in Uganda, it is not those with guns but those with briefcases who are today accused of grisly gang rape. The country is gripped by the rise in systematic incidents of gross sexual violence.
In Uganda, at least 21 girls are defiled daily. Official figures reveal that over 7,690 cases of defilement were reported to police in 2011. ANPPCAN Uganda further reports that between 2009 and 2011, police received 22,614 defilement cases. Over 628 children are defiled monthly countrywide. These are statistics of those cases which were reported, many more victims suffer in silence.
Not so long ago, a primary six pupil aged 14 was waylaid on her way to school and gang-raped by four men in Kawempe division, Kampala.
Grace Nakasa, a resident of Soroti /district, recounts how she has been raped by 12 men at different times, infecting her with HIV. The latest case to shock the country is where five Pakistani nationals are being accused of gang-raping and sodomising a 23-year-old Ugandan lady for two months.
Their employers claim this was a relationship gone sour. I don’t know whether we shall ever know what exactly happened in that house but what we know is that a young girl’s life has been severely dented. Questions have been asked about how such a case was shelved since July when it was first reported. Bribery claims have come up just like in many other cases in our criminal justice system.
The quest for justice apparently has started in earnest. But in a criminal justice system where victims of sexual offences rarely find justice – many cases never lead to successful prosecution, conviction rate is poor, lack of timely medical examination, complex to sustain strong case given the nature of evidence necessary – many victims have resorted to suffer in silence.
We know that the law provides that rape is a felony that fetches a death sentence on conviction but why is this stiff prescribed punishment not acting as a deterrent?
Proving a case of sexual violence in court requires that the prosecution adduces incontrovertible evidence which will “leave the judge without any shadow of doubt” that the suspect raped his victim. But how do you do this when many victims for one reason or another fail to undergo medical examination within 24 hours after the incident? How do you do it when the country does not have adequate basic DNA testing facilities to ascertain whether the semen found on the victim indeed came from the suspect?
Corruption and underfunding, which has created understaffing in these institutions, also further compound the problem. These loopholes in our criminal justice system have provided a safe haven to rapists and defilers in this country. They know they can do it and somehow get away with it.
For our criminal justice system to function properly, all the five components – law enforcement (police), prosecution, defence attorneys (mostly legal aid), courts, and corrections (prisons) have to adequately play their role.
Mr Masake is a co-founder, Social Justice Support Center. firstname.lastname@example.org & Twitter: @masakeonline