Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

State v. Banda High Court of Zimbabwe (2001)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

The accused took a concoction of herbs with the intent to procure an abortion when she was six months pregnant and buried the fetus. She pled guilty to contravening the Termination of Pregnancy Act, which bans abortions subject to enumerated exceptions. She was sentenced to nine months imprisonment that were suspended on the condition that she complete 305 hours of community service. The issue under review was whether the conviction was proper without medical evidence to prove that the ingested herbal concoction could induce an abortion. It was held that before a person is convicted for abortion it must be proved that the instrument or method used can induce an abortion. Except for a few obvious cases were the conduct of the accused is known to cause abortions, medical evidence must prove that the terminated pregnancy was not spontaneous but induced by the actions of the accused. Here, there was no proof that the herbal concoction was, in fact, capable of inducing an abortion. Therefore a conviction for abortion was an error, accused was guilty solely of attempting abortion.

The People v. Manroe High Court of Zambia (2010)

Sexual violence and rape

Pretty, an eight-year-old girl, was on an errand with her friend Violet, a seven-year-old girl. Along the way the inebriated defendant, Manroe, grabbed both girls, stuffed their mouths with cotton, and had sexual intercourse with both of them against their will. After he completed these acts, he threatened to kill them if they told anyone what transpired. Four days after the crime, Pretty’s mother noticed that Pretty was walking rather awkwardly, and upon inspection, discovered cuts on Pretty’s private parts. Her mother then filed a report at the police station and took Pretty to a hospital, where a doctor issued a medical report. The trial court, concerned with the reliability of the testimony of Pretty, a child of tender years, conducted a voire dire and determined that she was not capable of understanding the purpose of taking the oath. Therefore, the court required corroborating evidence of the rape to be presented. The trial court found that Manroe had been properly identified and that the medical report corroborated the rape, and accordingly, convicted Manroe of defilement. On appeal, Manroe argued, inter alia, that the medical evidence was insufficient because the crime was reported late and there was no date stamp on the medical report. The High Court noted that corroborating evidence need not be corroboration in the strict sense of the law, but needed to be “something more” than the victim’s testimony. Despite Pretty’s examination occurring four days after the crime, the High Court found that the medical report, having been issued by a licensed medical professional, properly corroborated the crime and therefore, upheld Manroe’s conviction.

Massaquoi v. Republic of Liberia Supreme Court of Liberia (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment that appellant, Power Massaquoi, was guilty of rape and reduced his sentence from life imprisonment to 50 years imprisonment. The victim, an 11-year-old girl, stated that the appellant, 38, forced her into his room and had nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her. The court affirmed the lower court’s admission in evidence of the testimony of the victim’s mother, who testified that she saw blood on the victim’s skirt and questioned the victim about the incident. The court held that the testimony qualified as an exception to the hearsay rule because statements are generally admissible “to determine the trustworthiness and reliability of statements made by child victims of abuse.” In addition, the court affirmed the lower court’s admission in evidence of the expert testimony of a physician’s assistant. The court held that even though the physician’s assistant did not have a medical degree, he qualified as an expert because of his experience with and knowledge of victims of sexual violence. The court noted that social workers trained in these areas would qualify as expert witnesses.