Prominent law lecturer and politician, Professor Lovemore Madhuku says courts are not an effective mechanism in determining the real levels of punishment for serious crimes and hence the punishment should be dictated in the law itself.
Professor Madhuku was speaking on the necessity of a mandatory minimum sentence for sexual violence crimes in Zimbabwe at a National Summit focused on ending sexual violence against women and girls held in Harare recently, courtesy of Musasa, in conjunction with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development as well as Diakonia.
“I say yes, a mandatory minimum sentence for sexual crimes is the way to go because minimum and maximum sentences serve as guidelines for the courts when dealing with cases of this nature,” said Prof Madhuku.
He added that the mandatory minimum sentence would not be unconstitutional as long as it left room for the courts to exercise some discretion to deal with cases with extenuating circumstances and as long as it would not be unreasonable.
“A mandatory minimum sentence for sexual violence crimes will dramatise society’s focus on these crimes and send a clear message on the gravity of the crimes,” he said.
Madhuku reiterated that a mandatory minimum sentence is the way to go as it is the best way to achieve gender equality whilst dealing a blow to violence against women.
“It is also historically validated that minimum sentences work.”
Speaking at the same Summit, Adult Rape Clinic’s Manager, Rudo Mashingaidze echoed Madhuku’s sentiments, saying livestock sometimes roams about without being stolen because the Stock Theft Prevention Act is deterrent enough hence a mandatory minimum sentence for sexual crimes would deter would be offenders.
According to a research paper on a mandatory minimum sentence for sexual violence crimes by Musasa, presented during the Summit, the suggested minimum mandatory sentence for rape should be a custodial sentence of 60 years without the option of a fine or community service in cases involving minors and persons with disabilities.
The Summit follows a Policy Roundtable Meeting on the Mandatory Minimum Sentence for Rape and Sexual Violence in Harare in October.