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Experts say defilement law is too aggressive

Dr Tite Niyibizi, a lecturer at the Institute of Legal Practice and Development has challenged the child defilement article 133 of the 2018 penal code for stipulating higher sentences than necessary.

“In other countries, defilement cases of young people at a close range of age are handed not more than five years in prison and sometimes suspend their sentences” Dr Niyibizi told Kigali Law Tidings on Monday 22 February 2021.

Dr Niyibizi said that he is preparing his full arguments to be published in the institute’s journal where he intends to elaborate on why it is important to consider age.

Dr Niyibizi argues sex with consent of young people between of relatively the same age should be given lesser sentences compared to others.

The current law doesn’t punish defilement upon young people aged between 14 and 17 who have consented to sex but can condemn a life sentence to an 18-year-old young man who has consented to sex with a 17-year-old young woman.

“It’s known worldwide that young people between 15 and 25 are very susceptible to sexual activities. If we commit ourselves to condemn them to big sentences, we’re affecting the near future generation” he said.

The penal code punishes defilers with 20-25 years of imprisonment and spells several other instances which result in life imprisonment.

The expert’s argument comes at a time when some parliamentarians have been suggesting draconian punishments for defilement convicts including death penalties, castration and life imprisonment.

In late 2019 the Supreme Court dealt a blow against the article a provision under article133 of the penal code which limited judges from using discretion in sentencing defilers, arguing that the law was not giving justice and was unconstitutional.

“The court understands the need to punish defilement but it should not come at the expense of the judge’s rights to consider circumstances before and after the crime in the administration of justice and fairness” the court said.

Kigali lawyers challenged that the penal code forcing judges to hand life imprisonment “that cannot be mitigated by any circumstances” to defilers who cohabit with the victims as husband and wife.

It was argued that young men who tried to correct their wrong by attempting to take the girls away from unwanted circumstances could be handed life sentence while the married men who neglected the young women they defiled would be handed between 20 and 25 imprisonments.

Currently, about 3000 people who were convicted under the article are serving their sentences.

The court also recommended to the government to rummage over the whole penal code for any other instances that limit judges in the administrating of justice.

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