Friday, August 12 2022

At least 150 cases of rape of people are reported daily to the police in South Africa. According to the Medical Research Council, only one in nine cases are reported, so the true number could be closer to 1,500 cases. Of the reported cases, less than 30 will make it to court, and only 10 of them will result in jail time.

The police forces, together with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), have failed victims of gender-based violence,” said Lesego Mahlangu of Not in my namea civil rights movement that began to protest the high rates of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa.

Talk to e-Health News, she saysthis It has been proven time and time again that there has been negligence on the part of SAPS in terms of responding, particularly to GBV, women and children.

Mahlangu pointed to the lack of investment in community forums as another barrier to helping victims of GBV. “We have community members who have invested their time in becoming foot soldiers on the ground, fighting against GBV. But The members of the Civil Secretariat of the Police Service (CSPS) are not paid on time or sometimes they are not paid at all. The response was very disappointing and lacked political will,” she said.

Not in My Name wants there to be a greater political role, especially from the minister’s office and the chief commissioner’s office.

National strategic plan on gender-based violence

The National Strategic Plan (NSP) on GBV is the government’s comprehensive strategy to address all forms of violence and abuse against women and children. The government implemented several new interventions after the launch of the plan in 2020.

The government has also introduced new laws to protect women and children in South Africa from abuse and violence. Despite these efforts, GBV continues to plague the country.

SAPS negligence

Mahlangu said victims of GBV are reluctant to turn to their local police stations for help because of the poor relationship communities have with SAPS.

“Can you imagine being a woman in South Africa, where women are victimized in all sectors? It is very difficult to defend yourself surrounded by male police officers who hardly have the sensitivity to handle the case,” said Mahlangu.

According to Rape Crisis Cape Town Trustthose who report a rape have the right to ask to be seen in a private room of the police station and to give their statement to a female police officer.

However, this is not always an option for victims faced with a police station full of men.

“It would be nice to have an office specifically dedicated to gender-based violence. The insensitivity of police stations and the lack of training also play a big role in the reluctance,” said Mahlangu.

Gender Based Violence Offices

In August 2020, Police Minister Bheki Cele said that the establishment of gender violence offices at all police stations in the country would be finalized by the end of March 2022.

Earlier this year, he said dedicated GBV desks are available in 381 police stations across the country and a total of 91,489 officers have been trained in victim empowerment, domestic violence and of sexual offences.

And yet, victims continue to be abused by the system. ““A few months ago, we went to the Mamelodi police station to report the case of a disabled child who was raped. The lack of response was very worrying. We have spoken to the head of SAPS in Mamelodi and till date the family has not received proper communication or assurance that justice will be done,” Mahlangu said.

This lack of assistance from SAPS is a major factor keeping victims of gender-based violence away from police stations.

“When you look at other female victims in your community who haven’t received any help, it’s easy to get discouraged,” Mahlangu said.

The Namhla Mwta case

The Namhla Mwta case is a GBV case that has caught the attention of many South Africans. She was allegedly killed by a hitman as she attempted to leave her current relationship.

She was shot nine times as she tried to enter her driveway. Her sister took to social media to share her story in the hope that Namhla will get justice.

Mahlangu said it was very commendable to see how political parties, organizations and communities came together to march for Namhla to get justice. However, she thinks Namhla won’t get the justice she deserves.

“There’s always a lot of sensationalism around a certain person or face. But once that fades and there is no more media interest, these people almost never get the justice they deserve,” she noted.

“Not all of us have fathers who know politicians or have contact details for ministers. It is a little known family. However, the case exploded on social networks. How long are we going to rely on the public to fight for victims of GBV? she asked.

The role of the courts

Mahlangu also spoke about the importance of the role courts play in GBV cases. She said communities have played their part in addressing gender-based violence by not being bystanders.

“Authors have too much freedom. Both the SAPS and the courts need to step up their efforts. Our local representatives and governments also need to step in so this doesn’t become another social media post,” Mahlangu said.

She said her organization’s main goal was to eradicate GBV, but it is quite a complex issue.

“It is closely linked to poverty and lack of access to several government organizations. The government must protect the most vulnerable – black women and children. In terms of unemployment, black women are the most affected at 40.6%.

A victim’s journey

According to advocacy specialist Jeanne Bodenstein, the local police station is often the first point of interaction for a survivor.

“Police station officers often do not have the training or support to deal with GBV survivors. To mitigate this, the survivor can instead report directly to a health facility. From there they can arrange for a police officer to come and take a statement,” Bodenstein said.

She said the case must also go through the FCS (Family, Children and Sexual Offenses) unit, where a specialist police detective will investigate.

However, only 25% of rape cases make it to the criminal justice system.

The legal process

Some rape victims are also reluctant to turn to SAPS because they fear court costs. According to Bodenstein, the process does not include any legal fees.

“Firstly, if a survivor reports to the police, a criminal case is opened. The police will investigate before handing them over to a prosecutor employed by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). He or she will decide if there is or not enough evidence to pursue the case,” she explained.

If there is sufficient evidence, the prosecutor will act on behalf of the state to try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused (perpetrator) is guilty.

A magistrate would then have to decide whether or not to return a verdict of guilty. “This entire process will not involve any legal costs,” Bodenstein said.

Bodenstein said if the survivor wants to claim money from the person who raped her, it will be a civil matter. This means that the survivor will have to have their own lawyer.

People who cannot afford legal fees can go to the nearest legal aid office. They will determine whether help can be provided or not.

The system must be more favorable

“The South African criminal justice system can be more survivor-friendly. All survivors must have access to post-rape care. This includes a forensic examination, medical treatment and psychosocial support.

Currently, not all survivors have access to these services close enough to where they live. This means survivors may never get the support they need or deserve,” she said.

Bodenstein thinks the system can be more favorable by offering all these services through SA. – Health-e News


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