Crisis of the girl child's rights: victims of defilment and the Zambian courts
Mbambi, Ruth L.
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Crisis of The Girl Child’s Rights: Victims of Defilement and the Zambian Courts Defilement of female children is prevalent all over Zambia. Statistics show that due to widespread concern, the number of reported cases has increased over the years. However, the increased reporting has not translated into increased numbers of conviction of perpetrators of defilement. Previous research on the issue of defilement indicates that the problem is partially attributable to the difficulty of discharging the burden of proof under the stringent laws applicable in such prosecutions. This dissertation is therefore a socio-legal investigation based on child rights concepts and their application in the courts of law. By employing a qualitative methodology and drawing on data from both desk research and field work, the study provides an enlightening review of the psychology of child witnesses and how its exclusion in the treatment of child witnesses results in a devaluing of their testimony due to the legal process during trial. Having highlighted the difficulties the child witness encounters during trial and the challenge faced by the courts, the dissertation then discusses the child witness with a view to understanding the child’s ability to recall an event and communicate that information. Therefore, it is shown that with age appropriate questions and when required to freely recall or communicate an event, children are good and credible witnesses. The dissertation makes a number of important findings including showing the imbalance in the rights of child victims of defilement vis-`a-vis the rights of alleged perpetrators. It thereby challenges the constitutionality of section 122 of the Juveniles Act which provides that a child must either testify on oath and be subjected to vigorous cross examination by an experienced lawyer or by the perpetrator as the case may be or be, denied an opportunity to speak. It highlights the inconsistencies in the children’s testimonies that come about as a result of the vigorous cross examination and the effects of the said inconsistencies on the decision of the court and credibility assessment of the witness. It further highlights the difficulties that courts face in trying to not only obtain cogent evidence from the child victim but to also have that evidence corroborated to levels that will satisfy the requirements of the criminal justice system. The dissertation concludes by recommending the adoption of more scientific based sources of evidence such as DNA testing, as well as the repeal of section 122 of the Juveniles Act. This dissertation contributes to the growing literature and jurisprudence on the girl child’s defilement crisis by examining in-depth the law and practice in the courts relating to the treatment of the evidence of child victims of defilement and the requirement as a matter of law for its corroboration. Such in-depth analysis necessitated going beyond the black letter law.
- Law