MPs should take sexual crimes soberly

The casual approach by our members of parliament towards the Combating of Rape Amendment Bill typifies the lack of seriousness towards the heinous crimes perpetrated on our vulnerable children and women in our society.

It was disturbing to learn that the majority of our members of parliament absented themselves from parliament and failed to form a quorum when their input was mostly needed to make a meaningful contribution towards the draft legislation aimed at curbing sexual offences against women and children in the country.

It was not shocking but disturbing that some members of parliament relied on interviews with Confidente reporters to alert them to the loopholes and dangers that the proposed amendments in the Combating of Rape draft legislation posed.

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Although it is acceptable to rely on information from reporters to equip themselves for their contribution to the National Assembly, parliamentarians are supposed to do their digging and research on every draft legislation or issue of national interest presented for debate in the National Assembly.

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Some members of parliament exposed themselves because they were caught with their pants down since they did not understand the ramifications and adverse implications of the proposed amendment bill on the Combating of Rape.

The drawn-out Combating of Rape Amendment Bill, would have been passed this week, with adverse ramifications if the Confidente reporters did not point out the loopholes in the bill for paedophiles and sexual predators who have been preying on unexpecting victims.

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The current bill suggests that sexual offences with a child would be the only offence that carries an option of a fine and not a direct prison sentence which further exposes Namibian children to lustful hyenas. In its current format, the Bill maintains that statutory rape would be a less serious crime than other forms of rape if it is allowed to sail through parliament.

Our main point of contention is that all forms of rape except for the rape of a minor should be weighed with equal seriousness and result in direct imprisonment than what is proposed in the Bill.

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According to the Bill, “Sexual Offences with a child, any person who commits or attempts to commit an indecent act with a child under the age of 16; commits or attempts to commit an indecent or immoral act with such a child; or solicits or entices such a child to the commission of a sexual act or an indecent or immoral act and who is more than three years older than such a child and is not married to such a child (whether under the general law or customary law) shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N$ 40 000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or to both such fine and imprisonment.’

The fact that statutory rape or child rape is considered a lesser crime in the current bill makes it easy for any person with money who can afford a lawyer to get away with rape which ought to restrain.

There should be no option for a fine for any kind of rape.  When we talk of rape, incest and especially rape of minors, the sentence should be the same as any other form of rape.

Perpetrators of rape often are wealthy men and setting fines for rapists will send a wrong message to our society that has endured sexual attacks over a long period.

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The current amendment bill does nothing to curb teenage pregnancy because section 14 (a) that places the age of statutory rape at age sixteen as a benchmark because that age of consent is just that low.

The law has to be changed so that it can speak to that reality, if we are serious against teenage pregnancy and hence the age of consent must also go up and eighteen should be that age of consent.