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While punishing rapists lets assist the victims

ELSEWHERE in this edition we carry a story on Prime Minister Tom Thabane’s commitment to fight rape and women abuse.

When it comes to talking about things that resonate with the people Thabane is a master.

He always hits the right chord.

On Friday he said the government was committed to fighting rape and other forms of abuses perpetrated against women.

The government will find ways to quicken the pace of rape trials in the courts, the prime minister said.

He said a “state of emergency” has been declared on rape and women abuse.

These are fine words but there is a risk that they might remain just words unless they are supported by action.

The devil, as usual, lies in the implementation of the strategy.

It is at the bottom that initiatives stumble and sometimes collapse altogether.

To win the battle against women abuse the government must start from the bottom.

The fight begins by accepting that women abuse is a national problem.

The education must start at the village level before it is escalated because it is where most of the victims live.

The fight must start with the education of both men and women.

Surely, if we can have village meetings about cattle rustling then we can also have meetings about women abuse.

While doing that the government has to urgently start training every police officer on how to handle women abuse cases.

This is crucial because women rights groups have routinely complained about the way the police handle abuse cases.

Many cases have been bungled by poorly trained police officers.

The police’s Child and Gender Protection Unit needs more officers, resources and training.

The government’s commitment to fighting women abuse should reflect in the amount of resources it channels towards efforts to tackle the problem.

With the foundation laid by educating the public and training the police the government can then move to the courts.

The courts can only effectively deal with cases that have been properly investigated by the police.

A rape victim who is well-informed of her rights is more likely to assist the police in their investigation and be a strong witness for the prosecution. It is the police and the witnesses who can make or break a case.

Once that part has been sorted the government can then start dealing with the slow pace of prosecuting rape cases in our courts.

Appointing more magistrates and prosecutors would be a good starting point.

Releasing some prosecutors and magistrates to specifically deal with abuse cases would go a long way.

But beyond all this the government needs to focus on finding ways to help victims cope and recover from their ordeals.

This can only happen in a safe and conducive environment.

Let’s invest in halfway homes and counselling centres to help the victims deal with the trauma.

The tendency has been to focus on getting the perpetrator jailed while neglecting the victims, who are the people who really need help.

It is they who have been brutalised and dehumanised, and no jail term on the perpetrators will change that.

In our fight against the perpetrators we must not forget that the focus should be on helping the victims.

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