A 17-year-old boy is the first in his southern African nation to be sentenced because of a derogatory comment on Facebook. Zimbabwe state media reports today the boy will be beaten with two strokes of a cane for calling a woman a prostitute on the social-networking site.
According to the Herald newspaper, the boy, from the rural town of Chiredzi, was convicted of “criminal insult” after he confessed to using his mobile phone to secretly photograph a woman at her office. He then posted the picture on Facebook with a caption saying she was “a typical Chiredzi prostitute,” said a local radio station.
The boy pleaded with the judge for leniency, arguing he was brand new to social networking, an orphan and the bread winner in his family, according to RadioVop Zimbabwe.
Why he posted the insult has not been reported. The Zimbabwe radio station said the woman was among his Facebook friends, and he called her to tell her about the posting. She then called police. The boy’s Facebook page has since been taken down.
Caning is a common judicial punishment in Zimbabwe for boys under the age of 18. It is also frequently used as a discipline method in schools. The U.S. State Department’s 2010 Human Rights Report on Zimbabwe noted there were numerous reported cases of children suffering severe injuries from corporal punishment at school.