Zambia: Rampant rape of schoolgirls by their teachers—victory in R.M.’s civil case

Printer-friendly versionSend to friend
Date: 
1 Dec 2009
R.M. at school
R.M. at school

The June 2008 landmark judgment of the High Court for Zambia at Lusaka in the case of R.M., the thirteen-year-old schoolgirl raped by her teacher, Edson (or Edward) Hakasenke, became final after the Government of Zambia dropped its appeal of the case in August 2009. As Mr. Hakasenke was arrested after the rape but then released on the basis that too much time elapsed between the incident and its reporting and therefore was never prosecuted criminally, R.M. brought a civil lawsuit against him with the help of a pro bono lawyer. The decision awards R.M. significant damages, refers the case to the Director of Public Prosecution for possible criminal prosecution of Mr. Hakasenke and calls on the Ministry of Education to issue regulations to “stem such acts in the future.

In February 2009, Equality Now issued Women’s Action 32.1 calling on the Zambian Attorney-General to withdraw the government’s notice of appeal in R.M.’s case, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to bring criminal charges against Mr. Hakasenke for the rape of R.M., and the Minister of Education to put effective mechanisms in place to address sexual violence against girls within the school system. Equality Now also convened and strategized with a coalition of civil society organizations in Zambia (the Tisunga Ana Athua Akazi or “Let’s Protect our Girl Children” Coalition-TAAAC) which presented a petition to the Attorney-General to drop the appeal and is developing a program to address and prevent cases of sexual violence against girls by teachers.

Even though as a result of these actions the Government of Zambia dropped its appeal, R.M. is yet to receive her compensation and, to date, no action has been taken to arrest or prosecute Mr. Hakasenke. Mr. Hakasenke is no longer teaching at the school and has gone into hiding although he continued to collect his salary for over a year after the judgment and may still be getting paid by the government. The previous Minister of Education, in response to the many letters received from Equality Now’s Women’s Action Network members, sought the help of TAAAC and Equality Now in drafting guidelines to prevent and better address sexual abuse in schools. The current Minister has not yet demonstrated the same commitment to this issue.

Defilement of girls under 16 years of age is punishable by up to life imprisonment under Zambia’s Penal Code, and girls have a right to protection of the law and to be protected from exploitation under Zambia’s Constitution. In addition, 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 by their teachers and other school officials in Zambia is a frequent occurrence that is rarely punished.

TAAAC and Equality Now continue to push the police’s Victim Support Unit for the arrest of Mr. Hakasenke, and for his subsequent prosecution by the DPP, as well as for the institutionalization of measures to prevent and better address teacher rape and other forms of sexual violence against girls. This cause can continue to be significantly strengthened by international activism.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the Director of Public Prosecutions calling for the prosecution of Mr. Hakasenke for the rape of R.M. Ask him 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. Remind him 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. Please write to the police Victim Support Unit asking them to expedite Mr. Hakasenke’s arrest. Please also write to the new Minister of Education, asking her to ensure that guidelines and mechanisms are put in place to prevent and better address sexual violence against girls in schools, including by school officials, and that the court-ordered compensation is paid to R.M. as soon as possible. Urge the Minister to cooperate with police to facilitate the arrest of Mr. Hakasenke and, at a minimum, to ensure that he is no longer on the government payroll.

Letters should be addressed to:.

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

Sample letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions

Mr. Tresford Kasale
Director
Victim Support Unit
Zambia Police Headquarters
Independence Avenue
P.O. Box 50103, Ridgewa
Lusaka 10101
Republic of Zambia
Tel: +260 211 254 534 / 253 543
Fax: +260 211 253 543

Sample letter to the Director of the Victim Support Unit

Hon. Dora Siliya
Minister of Education
P.O. Box 50093
Lusaka
Republic of Zambia
Tel: +260 211 250 558
Fax: +260 211 253 502
dsiliya@moe.gov.zm

Sample letter to the Minister of Education

Women's Action 32.1: February 2009