rape

Death penalty for convicted HIV rapists unconstitutional – Lesotho court

A decision by the constitutional division of Lesotho’s high court has found controversial provisions in that country’s sexual offences law, unconstitutional. In particular, the court held that stipulating the death penalty for a convicted rapist, held to have known he was HIV positive at the time of the crime, infringed the constitutional right to freedom from discrimination and to a right to equality before the law.

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Just over 20 years ago, Lesotho’s then Minister of Justice, Law and Constitutional Affairs, Refiloe Masemene, introduced a new bill on sexual offences to parliament. Among other proposals, accepted by MPs and brought into law, was this: that the penalty for a convicted rapist, aware at the time of the crime that he was HIV Positive, was the death sentence.

Police rape spree: huge compensation awarded by Malawi court

Thanks to the determined efforts of the women involved, no fewer than three recent decisions in Malawi have dealt with sexual assault, harassment or rape under extremely troubling circumstances. The trio of cases will surely act as a boost to awareness of women’s constitutional rights in Malawi, to add pressure on the police to investigate and on employers to act in cases of workplace sexual harassment.

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One of these three cases concerns workplace sexual harassment at the country’s broadcasting corporation, and resulted in a tough, far-reaching decision by Malawi’s Human Rights Commission.

Judge sets new Malawi benchmark in child rape case

Against the background of a sharp and disturbing rise in the rape of children in Malawi (a problem in a number of other jurisdictions as well), a prominent high court judge has delivered a decision setting a new benchmark for sentence and judicial comment in response to such crimes. His important new judgment comes as police in Malawi have released new rape statistics showing that the number of young girls raped (or ‘defiled’ in terms of Malawi’s law) is far higher than the number of adult women raped.

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Malawi’s Judge Redson Kapindu is used to expressing controversial views on the law. As a law lecturer in South Africa, he had no hesitation in drafting insightful critiques of SA’s apex constitutional court. This was in his then capacity as law teacher at the University of Johannesburg, and as deputy director of the South African Institute for advanced constitutional, public, human right and international law.

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