Harare – Zimbabwe’s top court ruled Tuesday that a woman who became pregnant after being raped could claim damages from the state after bungling by police and the courts meant she was unable to get an abortion in time.
“It was manifestly clear to both the police and the doctor that the appellant was averse to falling pregnant,” Supreme Court Judge Bharat Patel said.
“They must have foreseen that if she were to fall pregnant she would inevitably undergo the mental anguish of an unwanted pregnancy.”
The victim was seeking $10 000 in damages after she was raped by robbers who broke into her home in the farming town of Chegutu in 2006.
She had sought emergency contraception within 72 hours to ensure that the rape did not result in a pregnancy, but failed to access it on time because of delays by police handling her case.
When she then discovered she was pregnant, she sought an abortion – which is only legal in Zimbabwe for victims of rape – but delays by police and court officials meant she was unable to obtain a court order to terminate the pregnancy in time.
She eventually gave birth to a son and in 2007 sued the state for maintenance of the baby.
The judge allowed her to claim for damages for the “failure” by the state to prevent the pregnancy, with the final award to be determined by another court at a later date.
The woman was also seeking $42 000 in compensation to cover the costs of raising the child, but that claim was thrown out.