Women and Justice: Location

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.



Musumhiri v. State High Court of Zimbabwe (2014)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The 47-year-old male applicant requested bail pending the appeal of his conviction and 15-year sentence for raping the 16-year-old complainant. The applicant appealed, arguing that the intercourse was consensual because the victim did not scream or immediately report the rape after a witness stumbled upon the incident. The applicant had to show, among other things, the likelihood of success of his appeal to obtain bail. The court dismissed the bail application after rejecting the state's concession that the applicant had a meritorious appeal because complainant's failure to scream or to immediately report the rape cast doubts upon her lack of consent. Citing research about cultural inhibitions on gender violence victims, the court concluded that silence could not be equated to acquiescence. With women often held culturally as custodians of appropriate sexual conduct, and with the responsibility for sexual restraint being placed on a woman, regardless of her age or power imbalances, the court found it understandable that the complainant failed to make an immediate report. The court noted that a young girl may not make a voluntary report because her cultural context makes it difficult for her to do so without being re-victimized. Consequently, the proposition that the victim's initial silence implied consent was untenable and could not be ground for bail.



Hosho v. Hasisi High Court of Zimbabwe (2015)

Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

This was a dispute involving property in the name of the plaintiff and occupied by the defendant. The plaintiff sought an order for the eviction of the defendant, claiming that he had lawfully acquired the property. The defendant claimed that she was the rightful owner as the surviving spouse of the previous owner of the property through an unregistered customary law union. The court held that defendant had no right to the property as there was no concrete evidence supporting the existence of her customary marriage. The court explained that although the absence of a formal marriage certificate is not fatal to the recognition of a customary law union in matters of inheritance and constitutional protections for surviving spouses and children, the union must be proven to exist. Payment of a roora/lobola, or bride price, remains the most cogent and valid proof of a customary union/marriage, particularly where it has not been formally registered because the ceremony itself involves representatives from both families and others who could attest to the process having taken place. Furthermore, there is often documentary evidence of what had been paid and what remained to be paid. Here, the court held for the plaintiff because there was no evidence of a roora/lobola payment and the defendant could not prove her customary marriage to the deceased.



Mapingure v. Minister of Home Affairs Supreme Court of Zimbabwe (2014)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Sexual violence and rape

A month after the rape, the appellant’s pregnancy was formally confirmed, she then informed the investigating police officer of her pregnancy who referred her to a public prosecutor. She was told by the prosecutor that she had to wait until the rape trial had been completed to have her pregnancy terminated. At the direction of the police, she returned to the prosecutor’s office four months later and was advised that she required a pregnancy termination order. The prosecutor requested that a magistrate certify the termination. The magistrate said he could not assist because the rape trial had not been completed. She eventually obtained the necessary magisterial certificate nearly six months after the rape, the hospital felt that it was no longer safe to carry out the termination procedure. The appellant carried to full term and gave birth to a child. The applicant brought an action against the Ministers of Home Affairs, Health and Justice for damages for the physical and mental pain, anguish and stress she suffered and care for the child until the child turned 18. The basis of the claim was that the employees of the three Ministries concerned were negligent in their failure to prevent the pregnancy or to expedite its termination. The particulars of negligence were itemized. Her claim was dismissed. The questions for determination on appeal were (i) whether or not the respondents’ employees were negligent in responding to the appellant, (ii) if they were, whether the appellant suffered any actionable harm as a result of such negligence and, (iii) if so, whether the respondents were liable for damages for pain, suffering, and the care of her child. The Supreme Court held, on appeal, that the State was liable for failing to provide the appellant with emergency contraception to prevent the pregnancy and ordered it to pay damages. However, the court dismissed the claim that the State was liable for failing to ensure a timely termination of the pregnancy and in turn that they were liable to pay for the care of the child. The case was referred back to the High Court for a determination of the amount of damages.



State v. Gudyanga (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

This was a review of a sentence imposed by a trial magistrate at the request of the regional magistrate. In the opinion of the regional magistrate, the sentence imposed by the trial magistrate was too harsh and a community service sentence would have been just in the case. The accused was charged with physical abuse as defined under the DVA. The 20-year-old accused assaulted the complainant, his18-year-old wife, over a denial of conjugal rights. He was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment with a further two months suspended. The issue to be determined on review was whether the trial magistrate, by imposing a custodial sentence on a repeat violator of the DVA, erred in the exercise of discretion. The court found no misdirection on the part of the magistrate, holding that a custodial sentence is not required because the purpose of the DVA was to bring families closer together. Rather, the court explained that judges should apply a multi-factor sentencing analysis that includes, among other factors, considering both the DVA’s purpose to bring families together and whether the accused was a repeat offender. The DVA makes repeat offenders liable for imprisonment not exceeding five years. Here, the accused was a repeat offender, and therefore, liable for a custodial sentence at the discretion of the trial magistrate.



M.M. v. Minister of Home Affairs & 2 Others Supreme Court of Zimbabwe (2014)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, International law, Sexual violence and rape

This case was brought by the complainant, who was attacked and raped by robbers at her home.  She immediately reported the matter to police and requested a medical practitioner to prescribe emergency contraception.  The medical practitioner said he required the presence of a police officer to do so.  Because she was advised at the police station that the officer who had dealt with her case was not available, the victim returned to the hospital, where she was refused treatment without a police report.  The next day she went to the hospital with another police officer and was informed that the prescribed 72 hours had already elapsed.  When the complainant was confirmed pregnant, she indicated to the prosecutor that she wanted her pregnancy terminated, but was told that she had to wait until the rape trial had been completed.  She finally obtained the necessary magisterial certificate, but when she sought the termination, the hospital matron felt that it was no longer safe to carry out the procedure.  After the full term of her pregnancy, the complainant brought an action against the Ministers of Health, Justice and Home Affairs for pain and suffering endured as well as maintenance of the child.  The High Court dismissed her claim that the employees of the respondents had been negligent in their failure to prevent the pregnancy, and subsequently to facilitate its termination.  She appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which determined the claim by applying the test for negligence, finding the doctor negligent for having failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the pregnancy and the police negligent for failing to timely take the victim to the doctor for her pregnancy to be prevented.  The Supreme Court recognized the relevance of regional and international human rights norms and standards, making reference to various provisions relating to the reproductive rights of women in CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol, but held that, pursuant to Constitutional terms, these cannot operate to override or modify domestic laws until they are internalized and transformed into rules of domestic law.  Furthermore, the Supreme Court determined that it was the responsibility of the victim of the alleged rape to institute proceedings for the issuance of a magisterial certificate allowing the termination of her pregnancy.  Ultimately, the Supreme Court partially allowed the appeal and granted the complainant general damages for pain and suffering arising from failure to prevent her pregnancy.  Although conceding that Zimbabwe’s Termination of Pregnancy Act is “ineptly framed and lacks sufficient clarity as to what exactly a victim of rape is required to do when confronted with an unwanted pregnancy,” the Supreme Court dismissed the complainant's claim for damages for pain and suffering beyond the time her pregnancy was confirmed and for the maintenance of her minor child, as the authorities could not be liable for not assisting her to terminate the pregnancy because they do not have any legal duty to initiate and institute court proceedings on her behalf. 



Tirivanhu Ndoziva v. The State High Court of Zimbabwe (2011)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was convicted of two counts of rape for allegedly raping two girls, aged 4 and 8 years, respectively. He was sentenced to 10 years on each count, with five years suspended for five years on condition of good behavior. The appellant appealed against the convictions and the sentences. It was accepted that the two girls were sexually interfered with, which both confirmed through testimony. Both girls were (i) examined by a doctor, who observed attenuation of the hymen and a deep notch on both girls and (ii) able to identify the appellant as the perpetrator to the police. The court was satisfied with the identification, finding that the appellant was correctly convicted. The appellant argued that the sentence was too harsh. The court found that numerous factors were considered before sentencing. It held that the appellant did not use gratuitous violence, and was entitled to some leniency. The court ruled that the sentence imposed was unduly harsh and induced a sense of shock. The sentence was overturned and substituted for 10 years imprisonment, with two years suspended for five years on condition the appellant does not within this period commit any offence of a sexual nature for which he is sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine.



Mkandla v. The State High Court of Zimbabwe (2002)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was convicted of two counts of rape for allegedly raping the complainant, a 12 year old female, on two separate occasions. He was sentenced to a total of 20 years imprisonment, with half suspended for five years on condition of good behavior. The trial judge and court both found the complainant credible. The court found that the conviction of rape on count two should stand due to circumstantial evidence, which indicated penetration; however, not on count one, which included all of the essential elements of attempted rape, but insufficient proof of penetration so as to constitute rape. The conviction on (i) count one was quashed and reduced to one of attempted rape and (ii) count two was confirmed. The sentences imposed by the trial court were set aside and substituted with seven years of imprisonment on count one and 10 years of imprisonment on count two. Of the total 17 years imprisonment, eight years was suspended for four years on condition that the appellant in that period does not commit any offence involving rape or an offence of a sexual nature and for which he is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine.



The State v. Imbayarwo High Court of Zimbabwe (2013)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The accused was convicted of two counts, rape and robbery, as he allegedly raped the complainant and threatened to kill her if she told anyone. The two counts were taken as one for the purpose of imposing a sentence of 20 years imprisonment. He received an effective prison term of 17 years. The court noted that the conviction of rape was not at issue; instead, it was the conviction of robbery and the trial judge’s sentencing approach at issue. The court was not convinced that the essential elements of robbery were established regarding the accused’s taking of a cellphone and his subsequent actions, as the circumstances under which the cellphone was surrendered were not clear. Therefore, the facts supported a conviction of theft, not robbery. The court found that the trial judge should not have treated both counts as one for the purpose of sentencing. The court confirmed the conviction of rape, with a sentence of 12 years imprisonment with labor. The robbery conviction was set aside, and substituted for theft of a cellphone, with a sentence of six months imprisonment with labor.



Mpande v. The State High Court of Zimbabwe (2011)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was convicted of one count of rape for allegedly raping a 3 year old child who had been left in his care, and infecting her with syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection. He was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment, with three years suspended for five years on condition of good behavior. The appellant appealed against the sentence. The court emphasized that courts are required to consider numerous factors, and have wide discretion, in sentencing. The trial court noted that the appellant’s case was aggravated because he was “in a protective relationship with complainant”, who was a very young child. The court agreed with the trial judge’s sentencing approach, noting that the appellant was extremely lucky that he did not get a harsher sentence. The court reasoned that an appeals court will only interfere with the trial court’s sentencing discretion where there is misdirection or a manifestly excessive sentence. As this had not been shown and as the relevant statute prescribes a higher sentence than the one imposed, the appeal was without merit and was dismissed.



The State v. Tirivanhu High Court of Zimbabwe (2010)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The accused was convicted of three counts of contravening s 65 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Cap 9:23, for allegedly raping the complainant, aged 12 years, on three different occasions. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment, with three years suspended on condition of good behavior and the remaining two years suspended on condition he performed 840 hours of community service. The court found that case law clearly demonstrated that rape can only be committed when there is penetration. Evidence of the slightest penetration is sufficient. As the accused failed to penetrate the complainant on the first and third occasions, the court found that he should not have been convicted of rape on counts one and three, but only attempted rape. The court overturned the convictions for rape on counts one and three, which were substituted for attempted rape. The court upheld the imposed sentence, but it reduced the community service sentence to 630 hours.



Banda v. The State High Court of Zimbabwe (2002)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was found guilty of allegedly raping the complainant, aged 5 years and 11 months. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, with two years suspended on condition of good behaviour. He appealed against both the conviction and the sentence. The questions at issue were (a) whether the crime of rape was committed and (b) whether the complainant’s evidence was corroborated. The court highlighted that much of the complainant’s evidence was supported by the appellant’s wife. The trial court concluded that there was legal penetration. The court found, however, that mere contact without any slightest penetration does not amount to legal penetration. The court found that the appellant could not be guilty of rape, but only attempted rape. The conviction of rape was reduced to attempted rape. The court pointed out that the trial court erred on the side of leniency in sentencing. The court found that the sentence was still appropriate and did not interfere with it.



Pasvani v. The State High Court of Zimbabwe (2011)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The appellant, a Catholic priest, was convicted of two counts of rape as defined in section 65(1) of the Criminal Law [Codification and Reform] Act (Chapter 9:23), for allegedly raping the complainant, aged 23 years. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, with two years suspended on condition of good behavior. The appellant appealed his conviction. The evidence showed speculation about a possible love relationship between the parties. The court noted that the complainant wrote a letter to the appellant, which was not properly addressed during the trial. The court found that the letter should have been carefully addressed at trial. The court held that the trial judge should not have convicted the appellant. The conviction was quashed and the sentence was set aside.



Chimanikire v. The State High Court of Zimbabwe (2006)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was convicted of one count of rape for allegedly raping the complainant, a 16 year old female. The State argued that the appellant coerced and subdued the complainant into having sex with him without her consent. The appellant claimed that the sexual intercourse was consensual. He was sentenced to a term of eight years imprisonment, with two years suspended on condition of good behavior. The appellant appealed against the conviction. The court indicated that the nature and circumstances of the sexual encounter were in dispute, finding that it was clear from the complainant’s testimony that she was and continued to be in love with the appellant. The court further found that the State’s evidence did not counter the possibility that consensual sexual intercourse took place between the parties. The court held that the State failed to establish the appellant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at his trial. Accordingly, the appeal was allowed. The conviction was quashed and the sentence was set aside.



Gudu Masuku v. The State High Court of Zimbabwe (2004)

Sexual harassment, Sexual violence and rape

The appellant was convicted of raping the complainant ten years before she reported it to anyone and eleven years before she reported it to the police. He was sentenced to three and half years of imprisonment, with two years suspended on condition of good behavior. Although the trial judge found the complainant credible, the court found that she was not consistent in her evidence. It emphasized the trail court’s finding that she was suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder and her delay in reporting. As there was no independent evidence beyond the complainant’s testimony, the court could not hold that (i) the danger of false or erroneous implication was excluded beyond reasonable doubt or (ii) the state proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. Thus, the conviction was quashed and the sentence was set aside.



Ndondo v. The State High Court of Zimbabwe (2002)

Sexual harassment

The appellant was convicted of indecent assault and rape for allegedly taking the complainant to his house, chasing her around during the night and raping her. He was sentenced to one year imprisonment with labor and eight years imprisonment with labor, respectively, to run concurrently, with two years suspended for five years on condition of good behavior. The appellant appealed against both the conviction and the sentence on both counts. The court found that the complainant had an opportunity to report the incident on many occasions but she deliberately chose not to use it, which casts doubt as to her credibility. The court found that the complainant was not a convincing witness and the trial court should not have accepted her evidence in order to convict the appellant. The court held that the state completely failed to prove rape beyond reasonable doubt. The conviction and sentence on both counts were set aside. The appeal against conviction and sentence were upheld.



Legislation

Termination of Pregnancy Act (1977)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

if the continuation of the pregnancy is a serious threat to the mother’s health; (iii) if there is a serious risk that, if the child is born, it will suffer from a physical or mental defect that will cause the child to be severely disabled; (iv) where the pregnancy is a result of unlawful intercourse. Unlawful intercourse includes rape (this does not include marital rape), incest and mental handicap. However, a legal abortion can only be performed by a medical practitioner in a designated institution with the written permission of the superintendent of the institution. In cases where the mother’s life is in danger, the superintendent will not give permission until they have two different medical opinions regarding the danger to the mother. In circumstances of rape/incest, the superintendent must give permission after he receives written confirmation from a magistrate that the woman complained about the rape or the incestuous conduct. Contravention of the act by a medical practitioner in terminating a pregnancy or superintendent in providing permission not in accordance with the TPA constitutes an offense for which they could be liable for a fine not exceeding USD 5000, and/or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.



Administration of Estates Act (2002)

Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

The AE Act removed inheritance laws unfavorable to widows in civil and registered customary marriages. It recognizes a union contracted according to customary rites, even without formal registration under the Customary Marriages Act of 1951 (currently under Parliamentary review as of July 17, 2019). The AE Act provides that the property of an estate is to be divided by the surviving spouse and the children, regardless of the sex of the children. It also stipulates that a widow whose husband died intestate retains rights to the family’s land upon the death of her husband.



The Domestic Violence Act (2007)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Harmful traditional practices

The DVA protects and provides relief for victims of domestic violence. It defines and prohibits domestic violence in the form of physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse as well as acts of abuse derived from any cultural or customary practices that discriminate against or degrade women. Examples include, but are not limited to, forced virginity testing, female genital mutilation, pledging women and girls to appease spirits, forced marriage, child marriage, forced wife inheritance or sexual intercourse between fathers-in-law and newly married daughters-in-law. The penalty for committing an act of domestic violence as defined under section 3 is a fine not exceeding USD 5,000 and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years. The DVA also imposes duties on the police. Stations must have, where possible, one police officer with domestic violence expertise. Further, a police officer who receives a complaint of domestic violence must advise the complainant about how to obtain shelter or medical treatment and about their right to seek relief under the DVA. The DVA also requires that complaints made to police officers should be taken by officers of the same sex as the complainant, if complainant so requests.  Moreover, police officers have the authority to arrest a person suspected of committing an act of domestic violence without a warrant and bring that person before a magistrate within 48 hours. Finally, the DVA provides for protection and relief to survivors of domestic violence by enabling them to apply for a protection order when an act of domestic violence has been committed, is being committed, or is threatened. It also allows someone acting with the consent of the complainant to make an application for a protection order on his or her behalf with the leave of the court. A person who fails to comply with a protection order is guilty of an offense and liable for a fine not exceeding USD 200 and/or imprisonment for up to five years.



Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment No. 20) (2013)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Harmful traditional practices, Property and inheritance rights

Zimbabwe’s new 2013 Constitution addressed women’s rights and gender equality, and its bill of rights addressed damaging cultural and discriminatory practices. A gender commission was also established to accelerate the implementation of provisions related to women. More specifically, the Constitution recognized gender equality and women’s rights among Zimbabwe’s founding values and principles. It mandated that the State and all its institutions consider gender equality in laws and policy, to implement measures that provide care and assistance to mothers, and to grant women opportunities to work. The State must also prevent domestic violence, ensure marriages are consensual, and that there are equal rights in marriages. In the event of dissolution of marriage, the State must provide for the rights of spouses and children. The state is also obliged to afford girls and boys equal educational opportunities. The bill of rights specifically stipulates that women are equal to men, including deserving equal opportunities in political, economic, and social activities. Provision was also made for legislative seats reserved for women in the National Assembly. Finally, gender equality must be considered in making judicial appointments.



Reports

International Case Law

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum v. Zimbabwe African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (2006)

Sexual violence and rape

Violence erupted in Zimbabwe between the constitutional referendum of 2000 and the parliamentary elections. Supporters of ZANU (PF) engaged in various human rights violations including the rape of women and girls. The respondent state claimed that it could not be held accountable because those committing the crimes were non-state actors and the actions were not encouraged by any government policy. The Commission determined that "[a] state can be held complicit where it fails systematically to provide protection of violations from private actors who deprive any person of his/her human rights." However, the Commission found that the complainant had the burden of "establishing that the state condones a pattern of abuse through pervasive non-action." Here, the Commission found that Zimbabwe violated the victims' rights to judicial protection and to have their case heard under articles 1 and 7(1), respectively, of the African Charter. It explained that the the state had adopted Clemency Order 1 of 2000 (which permits those who have committed politically motivated crimes to be exonerated, with the exception of murder, rape, and other similar crimes) and that Zimbabwe did not "demonstrate due diligence" in providing justice for the victims of the violent crimes. The Commission requested that Zimbabwe investigate the reported crimes, bring those who committed the crimes to justice, and provide victims with adequate compensation. This case is important because it establishes that a state can be held accountable for the human rights violations of private actors. Under this case, if the state does not address mass rape with "due diligence," then the state itself can be held accountable.