NGOs call on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and Parliament to amend the 2007 Sexual Offences Act urgently

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15 May 2012

Issued by Childline South Africa; GRIP – Greater Rape Intervention Project; Johannesburg Child Advocacy Forum; Justice and Women; Lifeline Pietermaritzburg; Limpopo Legal Advice Centre; SANAC Women’s Sector; Sonke Gender Justice Network; The Teddy Bear Clinic; The Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women; Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust and Women & Men Against Child Abuse.

NGOs call on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and Parliament to amend the 2007 Sexual Offences Act urgently

NGOs forming part of the Shukumisa Campaign view the ruling of the Western Cape High Court on 11 May with the deepest concern and call on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and Parliament to amend this loophole and other weaknesses in the 2007 Sexual Offences Act as a matter of priority. Such an urgent amendment needs to be passed by Parliament within days.

Most of the new crimes created by the 2007 Sexual Offences Act deal with sexual offences against children and people with intellectual disabilities. The Western Cape ruling hits these two groups of victims hardest. Given the abuse of girls and boys with intellectual disabilities that has come to light in the last few weeks this is most dismaying.

One implication of this ruling is that victims of the 29 sexual offences for which penalties have not been prescribed may wake up to find the perpetrators conviction has been overturned. We therefore urge the National Prosecuting Authority to appeal the decision as soon as possible. While an amendment to the law will affect future cases, a successful appeal will ensure that current convictions remain in place.

“This loophole is far from being the only defect in the 2007 Sexual Offences Act”, observed by Joan Van Niekerk of Childline. “The 2005 Children’s Act legislated the creation of a National Child Protection Register recording the names of those who abused and neglected children. This did not stop legislators from creating a second, lesser register through 2007 Sexual Offences Act. This is a waste of government resources that is hard to accept, especially when legislators removed all clauses mandating the provision of comprehensive services to survivors of sexual offences and their families and the critically important monitoring of sexual offenders on the basis that this would cost too much.”

Yet another weakness of the 2007 Sexual Offences Act lies in how it deals with consensual sexual behavior between children aged 12 to 16. In April the Pretoria High Court heard an application by the Teddy Bear Clinic and RAPCAN to declare aspects of sections 15 and 16 of the Act unconstitutional. Amongst other things, these sections allow for consenting children under 16 to be prosecuted for kissing each other.

“Between 2004 and 2007 NGOs repeatedly asked for greater public participation in the drafting of the new sexual offences law. These requests for public hearings were repeatedly turned down. Had adequate public consultation taken place, many of these defects could have been cured,” said Lisa Vetten of Tshwaranang. Now we call on both the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, as well as the Justice Portfolio Committee, to meet with us urgently so that comprehensive, rather than piecemeal, amendments to the 2007 Sexual Offences Act can be considered.

For more information please contact:

Lisa Vetten – Director at Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre – 082 822 6725

Joan van Niekerk – Manager, Training and Advocacy, National Office at Childline South Africa – Tel: 031 207 9108 or 083 303 8322

Kathleen Dey – Director, Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust – Tel: 021 447 1467

Amber Howard Cornelius – Assistant Manager at Justice and Women – Tel: 033 394 9949 or 084 366 8086

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About rapecrisisblog

We have a vision of a South Africa in which rape survivors suffer no secondary trauma, and are supported throughout their interaction with the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Our mission is to promote an end to violence against women, specifically rape, and to assist women to achieve their right to live free from violence. Rape Crisis Cape Town seeks to achieve its mission through counselling and training of women, thereby reducing the trauma experienced by rape survivors, and encouraging reporting of rape and the conviction of rapists.

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