It’s 2019, and in May the country voted in its sixth democratic election. Like in 1993, Doc Martens and plaid are in fashion. Ministers and Presidents have changed again, with the Department of Justice (DOJ) getting the youngest Minister in President Ramaphosa’s Cabinet – Ronald Lamola.
The Wynberg Project, described in Part 1 of this series, proved to be a success – the court maintained a conviction rate of up to 80 percent over a period of a year (1993). This meant that four in five cases that went to court resulted in a conviction – the perpetrator went to jail.[i]
INTRODUCTION We’re going to tell you a story that has four parts. It’s a complicated story, but we’re going to try to tell it in a simple way. It is a story where language and meanings change. The very definition of words and crimes change. But, the attitudes and norms of society don’t change very […]
As discussed in our previous article, attrition of rape cases in South Africa is a matter of serious concern. The RAPSSA Report found that there were many different factors influencing the attrition of rape cases as they move through the criminal justice system. Some of these were due to the inefficiency and inconsistency of investigating […]
Crime is a systemic problem in South Africa and every year a huge number of cases are reported to the police. In 2017, for example, there were 49 660 sexual offences cases reported to the police in South Africa. But in how many of these cases does the offender actually go to jail? You would […]
The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign was conceived and established in 2016. We have one aim: the planned and funded rollout of sexual offences courts as promised by the government. This is a big ask and we envision that this long-term advocacy campaign will probably take at least ten years. Since our launch on Women’s Day in 2016 we have made great strides and progress and we will continue to build on this in the future.
Our campaign advocates for the national rollout of sexual offences courts to such an extent that all rape survivors will eventually have access to a specialised court. We believe that these courts should first be established in areas with high rates of reported sexual offences, which is one of the issues that we advocate for in the regulations and our engagement with the Department of Justice.
The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign has been working for almost two years advocating for the establishment of a sexual offences court at the Khayelitsha court. While the advocacy and engagement process is never easy we feel we have made some steady progress in working towards this goal. As we plan our next protest to advocate for sexual offences courts during the 16 Days of Activism campaign we thought we would reflect on just how far we have come since we started this project in 2016.
Early on in the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign we, together with community members, expressed support for the establishment of a sexual offences court in Khayelitsha. During the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence in December 2016 we gathered as a community in front of the Khayelitsha court to demand a dedicated sexual offences court be built. At the end of our protest during 16 Days of Activism, we handed over a memorandum to this effect to the Department of Justice.
Previously we wrote about the space created for discussion as we partnered with the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Law and Society to host a panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa. However, it was not only the space that we were grateful for, but also the content of the discussion.
As the three researchers, Lisa Vetten, Dr Aisling Heath, and Karen Hollely, shared some key findings from their work and presented their opinions to the people that attended, there was a very clear golden thread tying together their findings: people. When victims of sexual offences were interviewed during research conducted by the Child Witness Institute, it was clear that people’s experience of the criminal justice system and sexual offences court depends on the people that work in the court and how supportive they are. This was the same for when magistrates and prosecutors were interviewed about working in sexual offences courts – justice is dispensed by people and who those people are, matter greatly.
Spaces where researchers, activists and students can gather to share thoughts, ideas and dreams, are few and far between. That is why we were so grateful and excited when the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Law and Society offered to partner with us to host a panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa.
This discussion was designed to follow on from the National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act that was presented by the Department of Justice at the end of 2017 and where some of the research concerning sexual offences courts was first presented to the public. However, only a handful of representatives from the NGO sector could attend the DOJ’s forum and we were interested to hear the views of others in the field of sexual violence, colleagues who work in courts and fellow activists.
Our panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa took place on 26 April 2018 in Cape Town and we were joined by three panellists; Lisa Vetten, from the Wits City Institute, Dr Aisling Heath from the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit at UCT, and Karen Hollely from the Child Witness Institute. Together they shared some of the key findings of their three separate research undertakings in the area of sexual offences in the court system. Their separate research studies looked at the experiences of victims of sexual violence in courts, the observation of court proceedings and the reviewing of court files. They not only shared their very interesting findings, but also their personal opinions of how this issue should be taken forward.