‘Allow the mentally challenged to testify against GBV in court’

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© PEOPLE living with disabilities have urged government to remodel its law prohibiting sexually abused women with mental illnesses to testify in court as most of them are subjected to rape while their abusers walk free. This comes as the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) that was running under the theme “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape”, ended yesterday.

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Disability activist Abraham Mateta said women with disabilities were at double risk of GBV, especially sexual abuse, therefore, there was need to strengthen avenues through which they can report their cases.

Mateta said the government should ensure that those who were mentally impaired should get justice when raped.

“GBV sometimes fails to get attention when it occurs to a person with disabilities. Let us assume a woman with a mental impairment has been raped. Our law generally treats people with mental disorders and incompetent and compellable witnesses. 

“What that means is that although this is a person who must give primary evidence of what happened, she is not a competent and compellable witness. This leads us to a situation where women with such disabilities have been abused and such cases do not go through the set down,” he said. Mateta added there was need to remodel the law.

“People with mental illnesses should be conceptualised as being competent witnesses who need to be provided with relevant assistance to appear in our courts,” Mateta added.

Deaf Women Included (DWI) board member Samantha Sibanda said reporting GBV cases should be made easy for people living with disabilities.

She said sometimes people living with disability were not able to report GBV cases when, for example, they use wheel chairs and police stations are far away.

“For them to go to the police station to report becomes a challenge so that’s why some think GBV is not happening among those living with disabilities. Sometimes the person you are supposed to be reporting may be your assistant, guardian or someone taking care of you.

“It then becomes a challenge. If the abused person is deaf he or she will need the same assistant to interpret at the police station. We need those who have the capacity to develop apps that can make reporting GBV easier for people with disabilities,” Sibanda said.

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