Raped and Pregnant – What are the Options?

Politically motivated rape has been reported in Zimbabwe particularly around elections over the last decade but there has been little interest by the government to address it.  Political leaders have recently been reported in the media as saying political violence must end but no one has specifically mentioned rape.  That little naivety left in me says they are quiet because they are so ashamed by what has been committed in their name that they cannot bear to talk about it but then the realist, unfortunately the realist in me is very cynical, says yeah right, they are silent because it is a crime against women!

According to Zimbabwe law rape is defined as the act by a male person of knowingly having sexual intercourse or anal sexual intercourse with a female person, and, at the time of the intercourse, the female person has not consented to it; and he knows that she has not consented to it, or realises that there is a real risk or possibility that she may not have consented to it.

So it is a crime against a woman by a man. When a woman is raped she is encouraged not to talk about it as she will bring disrepute to not only herself but also to her family. By not talking about it she does not seek medical attention and does not receive post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and medication for other sexually transmitted infections. She does not receive emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, leaving her with the very high possibility of being infected by HIV and/or with an unwanted pregnancy. She does not get emotional and physiological support.  She does not report to the police therefore she has no documentation to get assistance in the event of the above happening.  If a woman is pregnant as a result of rape the law states that she must get a magisterial certificate to terminate the pregnancy under the Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1977.  When reading the Act one would think this certificate is granted promptly but alas it is not. The magistrate must be satisfied that;

  •  A complaint has been lodged with the police;
  • An examination of any relevant documentation submitted by the police has been done;
  • The woman has been interrogated as well as any other person that the magistrate considers necessary;
  • An affidavit must be produced stating under oath that the pregnancy is a likely result of the rape.

This could take weeks and in worst case scenarios, months, exacerbated by the corruption and partisan politicking within the police force and the judiciary by the time the certificate is issued the pregnancy is too far along to terminate.  The woman who is a victim of politically motivated rape is forced to carry to term a baby she does not want and whose father she does not know as she was likely raped by a gang. In my view this certificate should be issued as a matter of urgency. A recent media report entitled Our ugly secret: abortion in Zimbabwe, illegal but thriving stated that illegal abortions and baby dumping are on the increase, this article focus on the economic hardships and that women find themselves unable to fend for their children and hence opt for abortion or dumping.  These are women who have had consensual sex.  For how long are we going to take the moral high ground and refuse women the right to choose especially where they have been raped?


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