Prominent women in Zimbabwe have expressed outrage after a teenager from Mudzi was charged with the murder of her would-be rapist.
Tariro Matutsa, 19, claims she was defending herself against a sexual predator but authorities have charged her with murder nevertheless triggering protests from lawyers and activists.
Tariro said she acted in self-defence when she picked up a piece of firewood and hit 40-year-old Sure Tsuro several times last month after he had exposed himself and aggressively demanded sex.
A police report says as Sure Tsuro approached, Matutsa grabbed a piece of firewood and struck him several times across his body, and twice over the head.
Zimbabwean novelist and staunch feminist, Tsitsi Dangarembga said such cases made women ‘reluctant to protect themselves against sexual predators and harassers for fear of state and social backlash’. She said:
_This is yet another example of how women are seen as objects of male sexual pleasure and men’s general wellbeing in Zimbabwe. Even when a woman defended herself from a man whose intention is to violate her sexually, she is expected to put his wellbeing before her own._
_Now she is blamed for the consequences to the deceased’s family brought about by the deceased’s own behaviour._
_While I feel for the family, this kind of reaction is unfair and has the added unacceptable effect of making women reluctant to protect themselves against sexual predators and harassers for fear of state and social backlash._
Prominent lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said needs to be revised so that police can have discretion when they look at the evidence. She added:
_It should also allow the magistrate to grant bail. But when they say it’s murder, then [the case] needs to go to the high court._
_It is painful because she [Matutsa] is an orphan. There is no one who will look out for her. Our women’s movements should do more to support these girls._
The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association and Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) have offered Matutsa legal representation and counselling.
The 19-year-old spent a week in detention before being released on bail. She is due back in court on 23 July.
In February 2016, Benhilda Dandajena, a visually impaired domestic worker, grabbed a kitchen knife and fatally stabbed a fellow worker who was trying to rape her.
Dandajena was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison, a year and a half of which was suspended.