Keynote Address by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services,
the Hon TM Masutha, MP, at the National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act, held at Emperors’ Palace, Kempton Park, Johannesburg, 30 October 2017
The Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
The National Director of Public Prosecutions
Judicial officers present
Representatives of NGO’s and civil society organisations
Representatives of various government departments
Representatives of the SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority
Ladies and gentlemen
Sexual violence is reality.
It is a global scourge.
It knows no borders, affecting developed and developing countries, destroying the lives of people, rich and poor, black and white.
Sexual violence is found in all aspects of daily life.
We find sexual violence in schools – with leaners being the victims of sexual violence by a teacher or fellow learner. For example, it has recently emerged that more than 80 children were allegedly sexually abused at a Soweto primary school and the school guard has appeared in the Protea Magistrates’ Court.
We find sexual violence in the public transport system. Research conducted by ActionAid South Africa in 2016, says 56% of women experience violence on taxis.
We find sexual violence on our campuses. I want to share with you something I found on the UCT survivors’ blog, it was posted in July this year, where a student writes the following:
“In my first year, I was raped, as a virgin, by a mentor in my res whilst I went to see him in his room. I was intensely traumatized by the incident … I went to shower to wash away all the shame, the guilt, the pain, his scent – and unfortunately I collapsed in the shower…
I decided I had to go see a doctor, I managed to get an appointment with Student Wellness, to see a doctor the next day.
I arrived 2 mins late for my appointment with the doctor – because I didn’t know where student wellness was, the doctor had not even arrived as yet but when he arrived he looked at me and told me that I was late, shouting, and he led me to his consultation room.
He asked me what was wrong, I told him I fainted in the shower, and I was unconscious for 45 mins, and at the time, my stomach was swollen and quite painful – this happens whenever I am under a lot of stress…
And then I also reluctantly told him that I was raped the day prior.
He looked at his watch and back at me, and he told me I have too many problems and I have to pick one for him to focus on. He told me that he doesn’t have time to attend to my issues particularly since I am late. He said he only has 15 mins per student and that isn’t enough time for him to attend to all my complaints. He told me I just delayed him from a very important commitment he has after this consultation because I was late. He took my blood pressure and told me it was very low but there’s nothing he can do about that – he said I fainted because of stress and there’s no medication for that. Then he proceeded to tell me my time is up, and he needs to leave. And he said I understand you have a lot of problems so he said he will provide me with 3 free doctor’s appointments with him, within the next 2 weeks after he returns from a trip he had.
I felt invalidated and disrespected.”
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us never be the ones who make victims feel invalidated and disrespected.
The recent release of the crime stats tell us that sexual offences have declined by 4,3% over the past year. They have declined in 7 of our provinces – with two provinces showing increases: Gauteng showing an increase of 0,6% and North West an increase of 3,9%. If one looks at the ten year trend for sexual offences, one notes that it was at his highest in 208/2009 with 69 179 cases and it has been steadily declining since then to the current low of 49 660. If one looks further, at the sub-categories of sexual offences, it shows that rape cases are down by 4%, but sexual assault is up by 0,9%. Contact sexual offences are down by 7,4%.
One wants to be cautiously optimistic about the decline in sexual offences overall, but as we all know, the reality is that sexual offences – and rape in particular – are notoriously under-reported.
Therefor these figures can at best give us an indication of trends over time.
The Rape Justice Report, which is a retrospective study of the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of reported rape cases from 2012 and was released earlier this week, and will also be discussed over the next two days, provides us with valuable information on the socio-demographic characteristics of victims and perpetrators. Most victims (94.1%) were female and 46.4% were children. Compared to the Census 2011 data, the sample had a significantly higher proportion of female, Black African (86.9%) and child victims (46.4%). There were 53.9% adults and 46.4% children and the mean age of victims was 21.1 years.
The age of perpetrators ranged from 4 to 87 years and the average age of perpetrators was 28.1 years. Most perpetrators were adults (86.1%). The majority (99%) of perpetrators were male and 30% of adult perpetrators had a recorded previous criminal conviction. The findings show that rape victims are most likely to be raped by perpetrators from their own race group. Perhaps most alarming is that in 31% of cases the rape perpetrators were strangers, but an astounding 69% were people known to the victim.
So where to now? South Africa is known for having one of the most progressive Constitutions and domestic laws which are often used as models for other countries.
However, laws do not implement themselves – it requires people to implement. And the challenges lies therein in ensuring that the action which is taken on the ground mirrors those laudable goals that the legislation implores us to achieve.
We have made numerous interventions in this regard. A number of ground-breaking and international best practice models against sexual offences have emerged from South African soil. The Thuthuzela Care Centres and the Sexual Offences Courts stand out as one of the home-grown practice models that continue to spearhead global interventions against sexual violence. We must ensure that the services offered and the methodology used remain world-class.
And we must ensure that we leave no one behind. Our Department has also converted public education material for vulnerable groups into formats accessible to disabled court users, and these include audio booklets, braille, and large prints. These have been distributed to all lower courts, including sexual offences courts and other stakeholders and the Department plans to further develop its ‘Talking Booklets’ for older persons, blind and partially blind victims. With rapid developments in technology, we must keep up with the times and our Department, in partnership with UNICEF, is currently conducting a study to determine the appropriate ways of reaching as many people as we can.
With regards to the sexual violence at school that I alluded to earlier, the Gauteng Education MEC has stated that he is considering establishing a task team to deal with sexual abuse cases in the province and the South African Human Rights Commission has announced that it will work with other Chapter 9 institutions in combating sexual violence in schools.
Yet there are challenges that remain and we must address these in creative ways. For example, tthe Department finalised the production of the Information DVD for the Court Preparation of Adult Victims of Sexual Offences, which can assist in instances where there is a shortage of Court Preparation Officers. This DVD is now being printed for distribution to all adult waiting rooms. This is to ensure that victims are empowered. The NPA has also advised that 19 additional posts of court preparation officers have been created to keep up with the increasing demand for these services at the newly- established sexual offences courts.
There is also a need for a customised case management system that gives priority to cases of sexual offences, especially the ones that involve child victims. The rotation of the magistrates often leads to the delay in the finalization of these cases, for example, part-heard matters usually take more time to be finalised when the magistrate has been rotated.
A current project, funded by USAID working with the office of the Chief Justice, is under way to develop a customised case-flow management system for these cases.
Ladies and gentlemen,
OR Tambo said that “the fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest.”
Of course he was referring to the struggle against apartheid – but the central message is still applicable today. For how can we say that all are free when many of our people, particularly women and children, are not free to walk the streets of their community, not free to go to school or university without the risk of sexual violence, not free to travel as they wish on public transport because they are fearful?
Is that freedom at all?
I want to salute every survivor of a sexual offence, every single person who has reported it, who has gone to seek help.
And, in particular, those who have spoken out, often in the face of fear.
They are survivors - survivors who remind us of the words of Albert Camus when he wrote that “in the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”
All of us in this room are crucial role-players in the criminal justice process and therefore this Forum is an enormous opportunity for us to ensure that the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act works.
I wish you a productive and constructive two days.I thank you.