What does Women’s Day mean for us?

National Women’s Day is celebrated as a day when we remember the over 20 000 diverse South African women who marched against the pass laws in 1956. Their march was a testament to the ideals of; “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free” (Fannie Lou Hamer).

In practise however, many people who work at Rape Crisis are confronted daily with the realities of violence against women and children in South Africa, and are finding it increasingly difficult to relate to the true meaning of Women’s Day because of how much progress we still have to make in fighting for our rights.

On the 1 August 2018 many women across South Africa took to the streets as part of the #TotalShutdown demonstrations. This started as a small, diverse group of women who decided ‘enough is enough’ and brought women to the streets to make a statement about the impunity against human rights violations especially in this case, the lack of justice for gender-based violence in this country.

Many women in South Africa still face the harsh realities of the staggering numbers of gender-based violence crimes which occur daily in our country. This is an issue which cannot be swept under the carpet and ignored. So, should we be using Women’s Day to highlight and celebrate the achievements of women? Or should we be using this day to take stock and get real about the numbers, the crimes, the rapes, the cat calling, the inequality, the sexual harassment and more that women face every day?

We chatted to our staff here at Rape Crisis about what “Women’s Day” means to them. Here are some of their thoughts;

“By being a woman I am extremely blessed. I can care, nurture, create and still earn an income to explore all my dreams that I have.”

“Women’s Day is about celebrating women in our country. We acknowledge their achievements, strengths and resilience. It is also a day where we advocate for those that are still oppressed and live in vulnerable situations.”

“Women’s day is about empowering women to be able to stand for themselves and to fight against gender-based violence.”

“I think the day should be spent highlighting the survival of women in a violent and patriarchal society! We should highlight that no matter how much patriarchy women are subject to we are still here, we still have a voice, we still fight for our rights, we still break the silence, we still feed our families, we still wake up in the morning to care for our families, we still work towards our empowerment and independence – we are still here.”

National Women’s Day can easily be overlooked as just another public holiday. But we can also use it to become aware of who’s fighting the good fight, to learn what we can do to help, to resist, and to celebrate those who inspire us. Organisations do their part by making these actions accessible, desirable, and consistently showing the change we can make if we support women and marginalised groups. Many people in the world are doing absolutely phenomenal work in the gender-based violence sector and other humanitarian sectors too. As a young person, I too am reminded about the importance of being an empowered woman, and what that means in today’s society, especially when women’s uprisings are becoming more and more common. Part of that empowerment is seeking the support and spreading the information so that more people have access and awareness.

Is the spirit of women taking leadership in social justice movements back? Is it being revived? I don’t know but maybe now is the time for hope.

Zeenat Hendricks Communications Coordinator for Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust


The real numbers on sexual offences

In South Africa less than 1% of sexual offences result in justice for the victims of these crimes. The estimated number of sexual offences in South Africa is 645 580 each year and only one in 13 of these sexual offences are reported to the police. In other words, only 7,7% of sexual offences that take place are reported to police while 92,3% are unreported.

In 2017, 49 660 sexual offences were reported to the police and of these only 6 868 were prosecuted. So only 13,8% of cases that are reported are taken to court. (For more details on why this is the case read our article.)

Of the 6 868 cases that were prosecuted, 5 001 cases resulted in convictions.

5 001 convictions for 645 580 sexual offences crimes means that the actual percentage of sexual offence crimes that are convicted is 0,77%. We want this to change. That is why we are fighting for sexual offences courts

Statistics breakdown:

Estimated sexual offences in South Africa each year: 645 580

Number of reported sexual offences in South Africa per year (2017): 49 660

Number of sexual offence cases that were prosecuted in South Africa in one year: 6 868

Number of sexual offence cases that resulted in convictions: 5 001

Actual percentage of sexual offence crimes that are convicted: 0,77%

Resources: National Prosecuting Authority 2018/19 Annual Performance Plan: https://pmg.org.za/committee-meeting/26249/ Crime Stats SA: https://www.crimestatssa.com/national.php

The War at Home – Gender Based Violence Indicators Project, 1 November 2012: http://genderlinks.org.za/programme-web-menu/publications/the-war-at-home-gbv-indicators-project-2011-08-16/

Jeanne Bodenstein is the coordinator of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign for the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.



What makes up a sexual offences court

This is the third in a series of blogs written on the panel discussion we hosted in partnership with the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Law and Society on developing court models in South Africa. As you will know from the previous pieces I have written in this series, the discussion was lively and the researchers presented valuable information.

The idea of sexual offences courts is a home grown South African model, but it had its challenges. The report on the Re-Establishment of Sexual Offences Courts was released in 2013 and highlighted a lot of these challenges. It further tried to address some of these challenges by paying a great deal of attention to the infrastructure of sexual offences courts: the amount of waiting rooms, passages, doors, and chairs. We were of course very excited to see this blue print, simply because it is a thing of beauty.

And then the reality hit. Our state purses are near empty. In most court buildings there is simply no space for multiple waiting rooms and additional passages. There is not enough budget to even afford the number of chairs that the blue print requires. Rural courts do not have the resources to support such an expensive endeavour. This was echoed by the researchers during the panel discussion. While infrastructure is important insofar as it reduces secondary trauma, fancy infrastructure alone does not make a sexual offences court.

We realised that we had to fine tune our demands. Instead of demanding sexual offences courts according to the blue print, of which our government could probably only afford 10, we are lobbying the Department of Justice and others to roll out sexual offences courts across South Africa so that more survivors can access them. We have done this according to a new set of requirements and outlined these in the Regulations on Sexual Offences Courts. While the regulations are still in draft form, we are pushing for them to contain minimum requirements for infrastructure at sexual offences courts that are much less structurally demanding and therefore much more achievable. This has one goal – to reduce secondary trauma suffered by survivors. Because that is what our work boils down to; making the criminal justice system more supportive of survivors.

Jeanne Bodenstein is the coordinator of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign for the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

How to donate intelligently

Around this time of the year, Rape Crisis gets a lot of donations and messages from people asking if they can donate anything useful. We have decided to put together a little guide, so that our supporters can get a better idea of our needs.

It is important to remember all NGOs and NPOs are different, and they do not all have the same needs. Whilst wanting to donate is laudable, and we truly appreciate the intention, we would like to help you be more sensitive and donate intelligently. For instance: here, at Rape Crisis, we have no need for clothes, but a lot of shelters do, so if you have clothes or accessories that you are looking to donate, you could look up some shelters in your area and get in touch to see if they have specific needs for certain items of clothing, or if they will take anything.

We won’t beat around the bush, our principal need is money. In order to keep providing free counselling and services to survivors, we need funds. When you donate R100, for instance, a rape survivor gets a free one hour counselling session. Counselling is a fundamental step for rape survivors, and it is our duty to make sure the right services are provided. Our counsellors are thoroughly trained to help victims become survivors, and help them find their way to recovery and healing. With a monthly R100 donation, a journey begins and can continue.

Moreover, thanks to Rape Crisis’ status as a Public Benefit Organisation, if you are a tax payer and you have donated to us, you may qualify for a tax deduction.

If you are in a place where you can’t donate funds, we also need your time. By volunteering or interning with us, you help ensure the smooth running of operations. Rape Crisis would not be what it is today without its invaluable advocacy volunteers, volunteer counsellors, peer educators or volunteers helping out at events.

In terms of material needs, ours are constantly changing, so it is best to get in touch with us at the time and ask us if what you have to donate (be it cutlery, a microwave, some plates etc) could be of any use to us. At the moment, our Khayelitsha office needs fencing as well as a new toaster, and our Observatory office could use some non-flammable paint, a fire escape ladder and some new kitchen cupboards. In addition to that, we are also in need of 2 Jojo tanks. If you are able to provide any of these items, you are welcome to get in touch with us at zeenat@rapecrisis.org.za or call the offices directly 021 447 1467.

Lina Lechlech was a communications intern at Rape Crisis. She holds a B.A in International Relations and Languages from the University of Greenwich.