Chief Director for Vulnerable Groups within the Department of Justice, Adv Praise Tsidi Kambula, gave an overview of the development of the National Policy Framework relating to Sexual Offences on 21 June 2011. She said the aim of this framework is to have services to victims that provide therapeutic care to traumatised people at every point, that services are specialised and that all victims have equal access to services.
Rape Crisis attended the hearing and below you will find some of the highlights as well as her response to questions by members of parliament.
Departments need to adopt a collaborative approach to implementing this policy so that they take a collective approach to ensuring effective service delivery. The three main components of the policy framework are (1) governance, (2) implementation and (3) monitoring and evaluation.
Governance principles state that departments need to plan and budget together to ensure coordination of services. Implementation guidelines outline the role of the different department’s service providers and include both preventive and supportive services. Preventive elements include education and reacting to recidivism. Supportive services must ensure adequate resources in terms of infrastructure and staffing and institutions should share resources.
Monitoring and evaluation must be outcomes based and monitoring mechanisms must be in place before implementation begins in order to ensure quality monitoring and control is in place and results are impartial. A reporting matrix is in place to keep Departments accountable and to assist with monitoring.
She ends her input by saying that NGOs wanting to make contributions to the policy framework have indicated they would like more time to give input and that insufficient time has been given for civil society.
When asked why the policy is so late she replied that it was due to be submitted in March 2009. The reason for the delay was getting thorough input from many departments, which is a first for this kind of legislation. The Intersectoral Committee then looked at it and said that it was too reflective of the past and sent them back to the drawing board to make it more future focuses. In the interim the committee had changed and the new members gave fresh guidelines and extended the time frame considerably. It is in fact still in need of improvement but is does lay out the broader brush strokes.
Another member of parliament wanted to know why NGOs are not more extensively consulted. She answered that the National Working Group on Sexual Offences was initially consulted but this dropped off while Departments gave input. Time constraints then meant that they could only give a brief comment before the document was tabled. This could be something that can be addressed in a review process, which is provided for in the Act.
On whether or not services are going to be phased in, and if there is a progression plan she responded by saying there is an interdepartmental plan based on the different roles and responsibilities of the different Departments and the required outcomes. The achievement of these outcomes will be a measure of progress made.
On how the therapeutic approach will be integrated into the services , she explained that previously the emotional and psychological care of victims was the responsibility of the Department of Social Development. This framework gives guidelines for how each facility: police station, health facility and court, can adopt a therapeutic approach to victims at court to protect them for waiting in the same room as the perpetrator.
A member of parliament asked how these guidelines will be cascaded down through to the local level. She responded in saying that an interdepartmental management team has been set up to ensure training is conducted with service providers right down to local level with outcomes set that measures the impact of this training on the victim. The framework attempts to be cost effective. Let this not be confused with under expenditure or lack of expenditure.
She also ensured the members of parliament that the committee is working to sort out the problem regarding the issue around the statistics being addressed.
The members asked how the framework addresses the role of traditional leaders. She replied that many traditional leaders are the first port of call for victims in rural areas and can then facilitate his or her entry into the criminal justice system. They will be encouraged to form part of the membership of the Interesectoral Committees. The framework needs to take into account the context of the rural and traditional nature of the environment where a vast majority of people in our country find themselves. This is indeed a great oversight in the policy but not one that cannot be rectified. In fact in anticipation of this the Department of Justice has programmes in place to include traditional leaders in the fight to end violence against women.
Justice and Constitutional Development Portfolio Committee Chair, Lluwellyn Landers asked why the National Register of Sex Offenders has not been mentioned. The Chief Director replied that phase one is completed based on convictions since March 2009. There is a delay since SAPS is struggling with their electronic database which cannot at this stage interface with the Department. The Department needs R200 million to implement the Sex Offender Register. The government does not have this kind of budget so they are going to ask for this funding from the UN. R200 million that could be spent on policing, court services, counseling and other valuable things.
Civil society organisations and NGOs are now negotiating to get more formal space to engage with the Intersectoral Committee about the National Policy Framework as well as to present further research on the implementation of the Act to the Portfolio Committee.