When fathers rape their daughters

By IAfrica
In Zimbabwe
Jul 29th, 2014
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Blessing Mushohwe Correspondent
The Sunday Mail of June 22, 2014 carried a headline “Over 170 men rape daughters in a year” while The Herald of February 10, 2014 read “Father rapes 2-month-old daughter”. On Friday February 7, 2014 there was another article titled “Rapist dad gets 20 years”. Many more reports with

similar titles have been published while many other cases go unreported.

One thus wonders what on earth drives men to commit such an unthinkable, selfish and criminal act of sexually preying on their own flesh and blood.

Research points to rituals as chief among the reasons noted, with some being raped in order to enhance the family business’ profitability, to cast out evil spirits or to rid the family of poverty or the misguided myth that sex with a virgin heals an HIV positive person, usually as directed by a traditional healer.

The vulnerable child is usually afraid to report to close associates, let alone the police as such rape cases often come with extreme intimidation and blackmailing.

Upon knowing about the rape, close family members, mainly mothers, sometimes become complicit in hiding this disgusting act for fear of poverty and embarrassment.

In so doing, they are indirectly also raping the child by silencing her.
The girl child is thus left blackmailed, burdened, broken and weakened as she continues to suffer in silence, in many cases with the rape continuing.
Indeed, one cannot begin to imagine what these girls go through at the hands of their fathers and immediate families.

Rape by its nature is extremely traumatising and worse still when it’s perpetrated by a person whom you looked up to as your protector and provider.

Apart from physical trauma caused by the force often used when rape occurs, there are also the long-term effects of psychological trauma, which often do not heal easily such as self-blame, shame, anger, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts, all of which are obviously worse when your father is the perpetrator.

Whatever the reason for the rape maybe, nothing will ever be enough to justify this heinous and immoral act of men with insatiable sexual desires that knows no boundaries to the extent of sexually preying on their own daughters, or anyone else’s daughter for that matter.
It remains a sick act of a good-for-nothing twisted man who should ideally be taken away from society for good.

The parading of rape victims between 12 and 18 years in Parliament on February 11 2014 by the Musasa Women’s Project was indeed commendable as it brought our parliamentarians face-to-face with those living with the scars of rape, some even pregnant from it.

This hopefully may change parliamentary rhetoric on stiffer sentences for rapists into reality with even considering the death sentence for such criminals as angrily suggested by the First Lady, Mai Grace Mugabe.

Alternatively, if courts decide to be lenient with such rapists, castration in addition to life in prison as once suggested by His Excellency, the President of Zimbabwe, may not be far-fetched.

Indeed, with such inhuman behaviour, “… that which makes him rape, must go” in the very words of the President.
The National Action Plan against Rape and Sexual Abuse launched by the Government on the June 19, this year is a step in the right direction. This, however, needs multi-sectorial support for it to succeed and soon, as these atrocious violations of our daughters cannot be tolerated any day longer.

Society must also actively keep its eyes open for signs and symptoms of sexual abuse on girls at school, churches and even as they play at home. As neighbours instincts that something might be wrong with a certain child’s living conditions or behaviour are probably correct. That inquisitive eye may be the difference between a girl being raped by her father or escaping before it is too late.

In the meantime, as we celebrate 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, let us collectively condemn rape of our daughters with utmost contempt as evil, cruel, immoral, inhuman and indeed sickening.

Blessing Mushohwe is a Child Rights and Policies Consultant at UNICEF. For comments or contributions, email: harare@unicef.org


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