By Raphael Likaka
Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati says defilement cases are on the rise because courts give soft punishments that fail to stop men from committing similar offences.
Speaking in Zomba, the minister observed that courts are not consistent in giving penalties to those that are found guilty of defilement, saying some men are sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment while others are sentenced to 14 years on the same defilement charges under the same section of the penal code.
Kaliati therefore called on courts in the country to be consistent in giving penalties saying penalties should be tough enough to deter men from committing defilement.
“Let those that are convicted and sentenced to jail serve the long terms,” the Minister said.
She further suggested that courts should be mobile and be held right in the community closer to where crimes take place, saying mobile courts will allow communities to see for themselves prosecution, conviction and sentencing of criminals.
“This will help the would be offenders to appreciate stiffer penalties of long years in prison that comes after defilement” she said.
The Minister also appealed to police officers to deny bail to all defilement suspects saying bail would easily spoil testimony once the suspects are out in the community.
Kaliati also asked medical personnel to carry out thorough medical examinations on defilement victims that should give enough evidence once tendered in courts.
Zomba District Council’s Social Welfare Officer, Christopher Ndaona said defilement cases are increasing because some men use drugs and other addictive substances that drive them to commit defilement. He added that there are others who commit the crime on the mistaken belief that they would become rich.
On mobile courts, Ndaona said this is a welcome idea but would be possible if organisations support the courts to carry out the community level justice, adding this initiative can help to reduce defilement.
“There is need for religious, traditional leaders and the police to collaborate and in so doing we will deal with defilement,” Ndaona said while calling on the police and other civil society organizations to intensify awareness on issues ranging from Child Care, Protection and Justice to awareness on Human Rights and Constitution.