Biti tells judges that caning of boys Is primitive, unconstitutional …

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ZIMBABWE – Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku on Wednesday reserved judgement in a case in which lawyers are seeking the outlawing of judiciary corporal punishment on grounds that it violates and degrades male juveniles.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), which is represented by Tendai Biti in the case between the juvenile and the state, argue that Section 353 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act is unconstitutional and is an attempt by the State to drag the country back to the 13th century era.

Biti told Chidyausiku, who was sitting with the full bench of the Constitutional Court, that there were other effective methods of punishing accused juveniles such as placing them in probation houses.

“Corporal punishment is both physical and psychological torture. There is no yardstick to determine the force used in corporal punishment,” Biti told the court.

“There are other effective methods of punishing juveniles such as the issue of probation houses. This court must be on par with international laws. Corporal punishment is torture, cruel, retributive and primitive.

“The imposition is an infringement to the right to dignity. The two most important rights are the rights to dignity and the right to life,” Biti said.

The state counsel told the court that administering corporal punishment on convicted juveniles was currently taking place under the prison regulations in which the offender was canned on the buttocks while wearing a short, vest and kidney protector in the presence of the juvenile’s parent or guardian and a medical doctor or a state registered nurse.

“It is not unconstitutional. Corporal punishment cannot be said to be cruel or inhumane. There is nothing unconstitutional about beating your child but it should not be brutal. It is the view of the silent majority. We have our own values as Zimbabwe and we should not be swayed by other communities,” the state counsel, Ms Zvedu said.

The punishment is only administered on male youths who are below 16.

David Hofisi, a lawyer with the ZLHR, said besides being cruel and degrading, corporal punishment was null and void.

“It is null and void in terms of the law. It does not have a constitutional leg to stand on. Prohibit corporal punishment as a form of punishment. The trauma suffered by the juvenile is far worse than that of an adult.

“It is the aspirations of the people’s will through the Constitution,” Hofisi told the Constitutional Court judges.

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