A TROUBLING report this week that a student teacher at Highlands Primary School molested a 13-year-old pupil sent chills down the spines of Zimbabweans.
Even more scandalous was the fact that Harare magistrate Dennis Mangosi simply slapped him with a mere 12-month prison sentence that he commuted to community service.
Community service for such a serious crime is a slap in the face for those who put in hard work and many hours in crafting laws that serve as deterrents to such crimes.
For a person tasked with the critical role of assisting children acquire knowledge, competence and virtues, such behaviour is inexcusable and the traits he exhibited could not be adequately punished by such a lenient sentence.
Getting community service for luring an innocent child and forcing a kiss from her is rank miscarriage of justice for the girl child who needs everyone’s protection.
Such acts violate the children involved and also rob victims of their dignity and self-esteem.
What is most disturbing is the fact that the student teacher will one day be the custodian of many children. The traits he exhibited disqualify him as a guardian as no sane parent would want their child to be in his custody.
Clearly, he should not be allowed to be anywhere near children.
What came out in court was that Nashville Gwariwa forcibly kissed the girl after she turned down his advances. She tried to scream, but Gwariwa clamped her mouth shut with his hand, and forcibly held her close to him.
The justice system has let society and the girl child down. Would-be perpetrators now know that they can get away with murder. Any form of sexual abuse is just as terrible and despicable as rape.
The court should have handed down a harsher sentence so that would-be predators are made aware that violating a child is a serious offence.
While the courts are not supposed to condemn first offenders, the sentence in this instance leaves a lot to be desired. The nation is in shock: how can a magistrate worth his salt pass such a sentence?
While it is the Judiciary’s duty to bring criminals to book, it has, however, shown that it has its limitations and, therefore, everyone should ensure that children are protected.
At family level, parents have an obligation to discuss sexual abuse to empower their children so that when they find themselves in such circumstances, they know what to do. This is critical for the young ones who may not be strong enough to defend themselves.
Schools should safeguard children and not be havens for perverts.
To human rights defenders and girl child activists, we say this is a challenge that they should take. Instead of indulging in expensive lunches in posh hotels, it is time to show that they have teeth.
They should honour the pledges they made when they joined the human rights movement and call out the judicial system to ensure such heinous crimes do not take place under their watch.
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