By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Sentences being passed on convicted offenders of gender-based violence crimes have increased since the coming into force of the Combating of Rape Act, the Chief Justice Peter Shivute has said. “The courts have therefore endeavoured to give meaning to the provisions of the new legislation and to play their part in the protection of victims and potential victims of this scourge,” he said last week when he spoke at the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. Shivute said statistics of the five regional courts indicate that the courts heard 40 cases of rape, and considering the sentences imposed on the offenders, there has been a paradigm shift as far as sentencing is concerned. Out of the 16 cases of rape in Windhoek, the highest sentence imposed was 22 years and the lowest 10 years, while out of 14 cases of culpable homicide, the heaviest sentence was 25 years and the lowest 12 years. The Otjiwarongo Regional Court completed four rape cases in which the complainants were aged between eight and 18 years. At the town, the highest sentence was 20 years, while the minimum was 12 years. Compared to murder cases, the highest was 17 while the lowest was 15 years. The Oshakati court handled the biggest number of cases of 24 of females aged between five and 60 years during which the highest penalty imposed was 15 years and 10 for the lowest. Compared to the culpable homicide cases handled by the same court, the sentences ranged from 10 to 20 years. Shivute said: “What these figures clearly establish is that the sentences passed on offenders convicted of crimes involving gender-based violence have substantially increased from the levels they used to be during the periods prior to the introduction of new legislation to deal with the scourge of gender-based violence.” The chief justice also gave examples of cases handled by the High Court and Supreme Court where the courts expressed themselves strongly on violent crimes and the need to pass harsh sentences to protect society. However, the sentences passed on offenders at the Keetmanshoop court show they were clearly outside the minimum sentences prescribed in the Act. Out of the 11 rape cases held at the courts, six years was the highest, while four was the lowest sentence imposed. “It seems likely that the crimes were either committed prior to the coming into force of the Act or if the offenders were charged under the Act, then the court must have found that there were no coercive circumstances present,” he said.
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