By Daniel Chigundu
Harare West legislator Jessie Majome says the draft Computer and Cyber Crime Bill could be a result of Katswe Sistahood’s advocacy on revenge pornography that went horribly wrong.
Katswe Sisterhood petitioned Parliament to enact a law barring revenge pornography to protect individuals from having their nude pictures or videos published without their consent.
In the petition, they raised concern at the growing breach of privacy through publishing of explicit images and sex tapes to humiliate and degrade people’s lives through social media.
In an interview Honourable Majome said while she disagreed with Katswe Sistahood’s arguments on revenge pornography, she is keen to understand how government manipulated the advocacy to come up with the draft Bill.
“I find it strange that the Bill has been contorted by the government to stifle communications yet it seems to me or was being initially pushed by citizens including those who wanted it enacted to punish ‘revenge pornography’. They gave evidence to my Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for an enquiry that’s still pending.
“I disagreed with them then because it wasn’t necessary and it now seems so – better to have sleeping dogs lie. I read an earlier version of it the groups (who included Katswe sisterhood and David Hofisi) were parading them so I’m curious to see how the government manipulated the clamour for tech savvy legislation for what appear to be nefarious ends.
“I’m also keen to hear what David Hofisi and Katswe Sisterhood now says about how their advocacy efforts have gone so horribly wrong. Citizens must ever be wary of this authoritarian and devious government,” she said.
Contacted for Katswe Sistahood denied pushing for the stringent Bill adding that the Bill has always been in government’s plans and that pornographic issue occupies only a small percentage in the Bill.
“Cybercrime Bill was always in the pipeline as it is an international trend necessitated by the increase in internet access and vulnerability of different spheres of transactions and communication, Banking and national security. The bill is in consultation stage, we aim to ensure that the issue of revenge porn is included. This is because its back-on is privacy and in this instance privacy of sexual expression.
“While we acknowledge the contestations around pornography in this country, we are saying we cannot regulate people’s private space. What we are saying is we can hold those who breach that confidentiality to account as they are the ones that circulate without consent sexually explicit content.
“It is true that Zimbabwe’s Censorship and Entertainment Control criminalises possession of indecent, obscene or prohibited articles. It outlaws the distribution of pornography. However, the major question is should we have a law regulating people’s bedrooms? This would be tantamount to a breach of our right to self-expression as guaranteed in the Zimbabwe Constitution.
“When one leaks or fails to secure private intimate communication is this not a breach of confidentiality and an invasion of sexual privacy? This is what we have issues with. We have issues with a Cybercrimes law that intends to criminalise the production, distribution and possession of pornography, and does not acknowledge aspects of privacy.
“Have you seen the Bill? The Bill was always in the pipeline- and the issue of Pornography and child pornography occupies only a small section of the draft Bill. There are many issues in there,” said Katswe Sistahood.
The draft Computer Crime and Cyber Crime Bill is meant to criminalize offences against computers and network related crime; to consolidate the criminal law on computer crime and network crime; to provide for investigation and collection of evidence for computer and network related crime; to provide for the admission of electronic evidence for such offences, and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing.
While the draft Bill has attracted wide condemnation from various walks of life because of the alleged motive behind it, social media abuse has been on an increase in Zimbabwe.
Just this year there was a post on a facebook page Musvo Zimbabwe alleging that a model Tafadzwa Mushunje had injected her boyfriend’s child with HIV infected blood, which was proved to be malicious by a court of law.
Legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga also told this reporter that she is not very active on social media because she is afraid of abuse, while lawyer Tendai Biti said he was going to fight the Bill in the courts of law.
Katswe Sistahood is currently running a campaign to put a stop to and criminalise the non-consensual distribution of explicit and intimate images on social and mainstream media in Zimbabwe