The 2015/16 National Human Rights Commission report shows that cases of sexual abuse against girls and women are on the rise.
But as if that is not bad enough, Madeleine Nirere, the chairperson National Commission for Human Rights, told Parliament this week that out of 100 cases tried before court, only four victims filed for damages.
Legislators said persistent concerns of failure to provide compensation for the victims needed special attention by justice sector, since access to justice means victims should be able to get compensation from the offenders.
It is quite telling that only four in 100 victims would sue for damages. But more than anything, this is damning on the part of the justice sector rather than the victims themselves. If more victims were suing for compensation and failing to get it, it would be different from only a fraction of them doing the same.
The latter scenario suggests that most victims are ignorant of their rights on the matter. This means that where they have dragged their tormentors to court, they end it there, but justice, in its broad sense, is not limited to seeing a perpetrator behind bars.
As is with most crimes, sexual abuse impacts heavily on the life of victims. From acquiring diseases and psychological torture to disruption of education, many victims bare the brunt of the crime for years afterwards, making conviction of offenders a mere consolation.
The ideals of justice dictate that victims sue for compensation. But since many are not doing so, the conclusion is that most of the victims are not aware of their rights to sue for damages. This is an indictment on judiciary as it appears there isn’t enough being during legal representation to let victims know of how they can proceed beyond dragging offenders to court.
The Ministry of Justice and that of Gender and Family Promotion, and National Commission for Human Rights need to partner in raising awareness to this effect.Parliament also should have the obligation to compel a clause within the laws that would make compensation mandatory for all victims of sexual abuse once a court has pronounced itself on matters brought forth.