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Do not negotiate with rapists

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It took me a day to gather enough courage to read the story about a 21-year-old Chiradzulu man who raped a four-year-old girl and left her bleeding severely. I got enraged and heart-broken the moment I saw the headline. Questions streamed through my head as I could not understand the cruelty and viciousness of the act. I needed to gather some courage before I could go through the details of the incident.

Painfully, the little girl is dead. She was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. The little girl, and a friend, had been sent by her grandparents to the borehole in the afternoon on that fateful day. The suspect dragged the little girl into a nearby bush while her unsuspecting friend proceeded to the borehole. He raped her and left her bleeding. The doctors said she had died from massive internal bleeding. She was only four years old. What sort of animal does this?

A few days before this incident, another story on rape was circulating. A well-known preacher in Lilongwe allegedly raped his stepdaughter while the mother was away. The fourth-year college student was at home preparing to take a bath when she apparently met the ordeal. She then reported the matter to police, who arrested the suspect. A medical report indicated that the girl had indeed been raped.

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There was a very worrisome twist to this story. Unconfirmed reports have it that the girl was convinced to drop the charges by her mother, which she did. And as the story circulated on social media, blame was placed on the victim more than on the suspect who is also a famous musician and master of ceremonies. Some went as far as saying the girl lied about being raped just to get money from the man.

The two stories have made news within days of each other. They have left a hard bile taste in my mouth and that of many people, especially women. In days when the empowerment of girls and women is being championed, it is a matter of great concern to learn that girls are being subjected to various forms of abuse in the very communities and homes that should protect and nurture them.

Most rape victims know their attackers and they are able to identify them while hospitals are also there to certify whether a victim has been raped or not. Of course, they say one is innocent until proven guilty, and it is unfortunate that DNA testing in the country is expensive and not popular. But this should not leave room for people to negotiate with rapists, or on behalf of rapists, let alone to condemn victims. For instance, what motivation will a little girl have to desecrate her own private parts and identify someone as a rapist out of the blues?

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Rapists should be charged and sentenced swiftly and victims should be protected from being stigmatised and mocked. The victims have already suffered trauma from the ordeal. It is, therefore, unjust to subject them to more traumas. We, as a country, need to build wide and reliable systems for handling such cases from the perspective of the perpetrator and that of the victim. Rape is a heinous crime and should not be handled with kid gloves. There is nothing negotiable about rape.

People need to understand that justice for all is justice for everyone. One day, rape can and will hit closer to home. Your own daughter, sister, wife, mother, cousin, friend, colleague nice can be raped and you will need justice and you will call for the blood of the perpetrator. This means it is imperative that our judgements on rape should not be biased when the incident has not hit close to home or when we get involved passively.

I rest my case

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