Zambia: Rampant Rape of Schoolgirls by Their Teachers

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Action Number: 
32.1
IMPORTANT: This archived action campaign has been completed or discontinued, and the information contained in it may not be current. Please see Take Action for current and ongoing campaigns.
Date: 
1 Feb 2009

 

In February 2006, a thirteen year old schoolgirl, R.M., was raped by her teacher, Edson Hakasenke when she went to his house to collect her school papers upon his request. Mr. Hakasenke told her not to report the incident as she would be thrown out of school and he would lose his job. R.M. did not report the rape until several weeks later after she was treated for a sexually transmitted infection that she had contracted as a result of the rape. Her aunt/guardian filed a complaint with the headmaster. When confronted, Mr. Hakasenke claimed R.M. was his “girlfriend.” The headmaster indicated this was not the first such incident involving Mr. Hakasenke, but maintained that whatever misconduct had taken place in R.M.’s case had happened outside school hours and therefore it was a “personal” matter. He also claimed that the children were warned to keep their distance from teachers, particularly those of the opposite sex who make advances, because of the fear of HIV/AIDS.

  Mansour and Nuha
R.M. at school
   

Mr. Hakasenke fled the country soon after the complaint was filed. On his return to Zambia, he was arrested but then released on the basis that too much time had elapsed between the incident and its reporting. R.M.’s aunt subsequently consulted a lawyer who took the case pro bono and instituted a civil suit against the teacher, the school, the Zambian Ministry of Education and the Attorney General as legal advisor to the government. In the civil suit, R.M claimed damages from Mr. Hakasenke for personal injury and emotional distress. She also requested that the school and the Ministry of Education be held accountable for their negligence and that the Ministry of Education set guidelines to prevent incidents of teacher rape in the future. Through its Adolescent Girls’ Legal Defense Fund, Equality Now advised R.M.’s lawyer on applicable international and regional law that would be relevant to her case. Equality Now also convened and strategized with a coalition of civil society organizations in Zambia to develop a program to address cases of violence against girls by teachers.

These efforts bore fruit when, on 30 June 2008, Judge Phillip Musonda of the High Court of Zambia delivered his judgment and awarded R.M. total damages worth K45,000,000 ($14,000). He called the failure to prosecute Mr. Hakasenke a “dereliction of duty” considering the weight of the evidence. The judge noted that the abuse amounted to “enduring psychological brutalization.” He referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecution for possible criminal prosecution of Mr. Hakasenke and called on the Ministry of Education to issue regulations which would “stem such acts in the future.”

Activists in Zambia have called this a landmark decision. Since this case reached the courts, R.M.’s lawyer has received several calls from other girls and their families seeking help for cases of defilement (rape of minors). Girls have also approached R.M. quietly for advice on their own situations of incest and teacher abuse, illustrating all too clearly how the government needs to address this issue urgently. However, on 29 July 2008, the Attorney General filed a Notice of Appeal indicating that he intended to appeal the part of the judgment that holds his office vicariously liable for the acts of Mr. Hakasenke. The Attorney General has not yet submitted to the court a brief on the grounds for appeal.

A sexual behavior survey undertaken by the Government of Zambia in 2003 revealed that 16.3% of female respondents from all age groups had experienced forced sexual encounters, with 17.7% of the youngest age sample (15 to 19 years old) reporting “forced sex.” In a 2007 study undertaken by the non-governmental organization Women and Law in Southern Africa Research and Education Trust-Zambia (WLSA-Zambia), schoolgirls indicated there was violence in schools ranging from verbal sexual harassment to rape. Of ten girls from the same school participating in one forum, seven had been sexually molested by the same teacher and none had reported it for fear of being victimized or further harassed. Lack of knowledge and information on where to report was also said to be a major limitation. One of the recommendations made by the girls themselves was that schools should take all reports of sexual harassment by teachers seriously and should punish any teacher found to have harassed girls sexually. They also proposed that there be specific procedures to tackle pupils’ reports of harassment.

Defilement of girls under 16 years of age is punishable by imprisonment of up to life under Zambia’s Penal Code. The right to protection of the law and protection of young persons from exploitation is also provided under Article 11 of Zambia’s Constitution. Article 12 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the “Protocol”), which Zambia ratified in 2006, obliges States Parties to take all appropriate measures to “protect...the girl-child from all forms of abuse, including sexual harassment in schools and other educational institutions and provide for sanctions against the perpetrators of such practices.” Article 4 of the Protocol, which was cited in the court decision in R.M.’s case, obliges Zambia to prevent, punish and eradicate all forms of violence, “including unwanted or forced sex.” Zambia is also obligated under Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to take all measures to protect children from all forms of violence, including sexual abuse, “while in the care of parents, legal guardians, or any other person who has the care of the child.” Yet the rape of girls in schools in Zambia is a frequent occurrence and is rarely punished.

The coalition convened by Equality Now continues to work on R.M.’s case, in the hope of making a change in the lives of school girls all over Zambia. Coalition members have engaged in various advocacy efforts and strategic activities aimed at publicizing this landmark case. Zambia Media Women Association (ZAMWA) is developing a series of call-in radio shows aimed at furthering public education on the issue of teacher rape. The Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) is starting a hotline for girls facing sexual abuse. The coalition is exploring ways to put pressure on the Attorney General to drop the appeal in R.M.’s case and to push for the prosecution of Mr. Hakansenke. Their cause can be significantly strengthened by international activism.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Director of Public Prosecutions listed below calling for criminal charges to be lodged against Edson Hakasenke for the rape of R.M. Please write to the Attorney-General and ask him to withdraw the notice of appeal against the decision of the High Court to hold the government vicariously liable for the conduct of Mr. Hakasenke. Send a copy of both your letters to the Minister of Justice. Remind them of the government’s obligations to protect young girls under Zambia’s own Constitution, the Protocol, and other human rights instruments to which Zambia is a party. Request the Minister of Education to take serious note of Judge Musonda’s call to put effective mechanisms in place to address sexual violence against girls within the school system, in order to ensure that in future girls are properly protected against rape by school officials and that they know where to turn if they have been raped. Ask all officials to ensure that girls have full recourse to the law if they are raped and that perpetrators are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Letters should be addressed to:

Hon. Mumba Malila
Attorney-General
P.O. Box 50106
Lusaka
Republic of Zambia
Tel: +260 211 250 438
Fax: +260 211 253 695

Mr. Chalwe Mchenga
Director of Public Prosecutions
P.O. Box 50106
Lusaka
Republic of Zambia
Tel: +260 211 251 367
Fax: +260 211 257 636

The Honorable Dora Siliya
Minister of Education
Ministry of Education Headquarters
P.O. Box 50093
Lusaka
Republic of Zambia
Tel: +260 211 250 558
Fax: +260 211 253 502

Hon. George Kunda S.C.
Minister of Justice & Legal Affairs
P.O. Box 50106
Lusaka
Republic of Zambia
Tel: +260 211 251 588/253 509
Fax: +260 211 253 452

Letters: 
Sample Letter to Attorney General Malila

Hon. Mumba Malila
Attorney-General
P.O. Box 50106
Lusaka, Republic of Zambia
Fax: +260 211 253 695

Dear Attorney-General Malila,

I am writing in regard to the important decision of Judge Phillip Musonda of the High Court of Lusaka of 30 June 2008 in the case of R.M., a 13 year-old schoolgirl, against her teacher and rapist Edward Hakasenke, Woodlands ‘A’ Basic School where R.M. was a student, the Ministry of Education and the Attorney General.

I urge you to withdraw your notice of appeal in this case to demonstrate the government’s commitment to protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls in accordance with Zambia’s own Constitution and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women, as well as other human rights instruments to which Zambia is a party. I would also urge you to ensure that girls have full recourse to the law if they are raped and that perpetrators are always prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

 

CC: Hon. George Kunda S.C.
Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs
P.O. Box 50106, Lusaka, Republic of Zambia
Fax: +260 211 253 452
 

 

Sample letter to Mr. Mchenga

Mr. Chalwe Mchenga
Director of Public Prosecutions
P.O. Box 50106
Lusaka, Republic of Zambia
Fax: +260 211 257 636

Dear Mr. Mchenga,

I am writing in regard to the important decision of Judge Phillip Musonda of the High Court of Lusaka of 30 June 2008 in the case of R.M., a 13 year-old schoolgirl, against her teacher and rapist Edward Hakasenke, Woodlands ‘A’ Basic School where R.M. was a student, the Ministry of Education and the Attorney General.

In his decision, Judge Musonda referred the matter to you for possible prosecution. Without full protection of the law, girls in school and elsewhere remain at risk of rape and sexual assault and I urge you to take immediate action to hold Mr. Hakasenke responsible for the rape of R.M. to the full extent of Zambian law. I would also urge you to ensure that girls generally have full recourse to the law if they are raped and that perpetrators are always prosecuted to the full extent of the law so that all citizens, including children, benefit from the protections of Zambia’s Constitution, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women, and all other human rights instruments to which Zambia is a party.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

 

CC: Hon. George Kunda S.C.
Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs
P.O. Box 50106, Lusaka, Republic of Zambia
Fax: +260 211 253 452
 

Sample letter to Minister Siliya

The Honorable Dora Siliya
Minister of Education
Ministry of Education Headquarters
P.O. Box 50093
Lusaka, Republic of Zambia
Fax: +260 211 253 502

Dear Minister Siliya,

I am writing in regard to the important decision of Judge Phillip Musonda of the High Court of Lusaka of 30 June 2008 in the case of R.M., a 13 year-old schoolgirl, against her teacher and rapist Edward Hakasenke, Woodlands ‘A’ Basic School where R.M. was a student, the Ministry of Education and the Attorney General. I urge you to act on Judge Musonda’s strong recommendation that the Ministry of Education put effective mechanisms in place to address sexual violence against girls within the school system, in order to ensure that in future girls are properly protected against rape by school officials and that they know where to turn to if they have been raped.

I would also urge you to work with your colleagues in government to ensure that schoolgirls have full recourse to the law if they are raped and that perpetrators are always prosecuted to the full extent of the law so that all citizens, including children, benefit from the protections of the Zambian Constitution and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, as well as other international instruments to which Zambia is a party.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

 

CC: Hon. George Kunda S.C.
Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs
P.O. Box 50106, Lusaka, Republic of Zambia
Fax: +260 211 253 452