Be a Proud Slacktivist this 16 Days

By Jeanne Bodenstein

Have you ever wanted to attend a demonstration from the comfort of your own home? To be an arm chair activist without shame? We have the answer to your wish.

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Sexual offences courts now! (Photo:Alexa Sedge)

The end of the year is marked by Christmas lights in our local shopping malls, year-end functions and the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women.  During the 16 Days of Activism, people from around the world find ways to actively express their discontent with the high rates of violence against women and sexual violence in particular. This is a chance for people to stand in solidarity with survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence.

This year, the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign will use this opportunity to advocate for better support for survivors of rape and sexual violence in the courts. Specialised courts ensure that survivors are supported by specialised personnel, services and infrastructure with access to intermediaries and counselling support at moment of intense uncertainty and fear. Research has shown that this court model increases conviction rate in rape cases as well as reducing secondary trauma to survivors by making sure the support is there when needed most.

Our government has planned and budgeted for the rollout of these courtrooms. Our campaign intends to hold them accountable for doing so.

You can help us by supporting our actions during the 16 Days. We will host a community workshop to raise awareness and share information about these courts and about our campaign. This will be followed by a demonstration to demand a sexual offences courtroom to be established at Khayelitsha Regional Court.

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RSJC  will hand over a memorandum at Khayelitsha court. (Photo: Alexa Sedge)

We need your support.

You can get involved by donating to our campaign and with your contribution we will create placards to use at the public demonstration out side Khayelitsha Court with the following messages:

“Sexual offences courts now”

“We need the right criminal justice system”

“Access to justice”

“Support in every court”

“Better support for survivors”

“Justice for all rape survivors now!”

With your support we will also hand over this memorandum to the Deputy Minister of Justice and to the Khayelitsha Court manager to demand a sexual offences courtroom to serve the community of Khayelitsha.

If you would like to support us by joining us at the public demonstration, please like our Facebook page to be informed of the details of the event. Join us to demand better justice for all survivors.

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Jeanne Bodenstein is the coordinator of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign.

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Section 55 What??

By Kathleen Dey

I am having such a bad attack of FOMO right now. Today a National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act concludes its deliberations in Johannesburg and while activists from all over the sector are there I am not. And they are all being very quiet about the content of their discussions, out of respect for our colleagues in government and the spirit of the dialogue.

This National Forum is convened by the Department of Justice with the backing of the Deputy Minister John Jeffery and organised by a steering committee that included members of the Shukumisa Coalition representing civil society. What makes this gathering unique is that the 250 delegates include not only members of civil society organisations, government departments and state services providers such as the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) but also members of the judiciary. Since magistrates play a critical role in the adjudication of sexual offences cases and are often not represented in these kinds of discussion this is a huge bonus. My Fear of Missing Out grows as I write.

Yesterday’s programme included the presentation of critical research by research institutes such as the South African Medical Research Council’s recently released report entitled Rape Justice in South Africa. The combined presentations pointed to current problem areas within the areas of reporting, investigation, medicolegal services, support to survivors, prosecution and adjudication of sexual offences cases. There was, unusually, no question time or commentary in this plenary. This was followed by breakaway sessions where government officials and state service providers were given opportunities to provide further information on these problem areas in a more in depth fashion. The overall approach of the ensuing discussion was designed to be solution focused, with civil society organisation offering constructive criticism and recommending solutions designed to benefit all stakeholders.

The current political and economic situation in South Africa is so severe that we believe that we are unlikely to see the kind of resource mobilisation we would like to see in support of improved implementation of the Sexual Offences Act. In fact over the past decade we have seen a significant reversal in the gains that were made prior to that in putting infrastructure, personnel, training and services in place. There has been a marked decline rather than the consistent improvement reported by government. Sexism, racism and attitudes that lead to secondary victimisation of complainants continues to be a problem.

Statistics and reporting are unclear and inconsistent, which makes it very difficult to monitor progress towards set goals. In fact our current crime statistics give a false impression of excellence, showing a decrease in incidents when this is not the case. Strategies based on these misleading findings are in danger of failing as they are not based on an accurate analysis of the situation.

Performance indicators for officials within the criminal justice system are not successfully promoting good performance neither are they entirely useful as mechanisms for holding individuals or departments accountable. Some provide a perverse incentive in that they encourage poor performance when for example members of the SAPS are measured by the decrease in reported rape statistics when in fact they should be encouraging reporting. Management structures are weak and leadership is lacking. These factors combine to make oversight very difficult.

These flaws can be seen in the roll out of the promised sexual offences courts, an issue right at the top of the agenda of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign. There are sexual offences courts where there is specialised infrastructure in place but not enough skilled and experienced personnel and no services, sometimes meaning that there is a lack of psychosocial care for survivors. Section 55A of the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill, which would allow for the Minister of Justice to establish these courts and set certain criteria for these courts has not yet been operationalised even though the president has signed this new law. There are no minimum standards for sexual offences courts and no sexual offences court regulations in place as yet.

A focus on the sexual offences court roll out may help government to tackle problems with courts as well as police and forensic investigations since the idea that specialist personnel would work together could best be promoted with these courts as “centres of excellence” linked to surrounding Thuthuzela Care Centres, forensic units and Family violence, Child abuse and Sexual offences (FCS) Units. We should therefore focus on the following suggestions for government role players at the upcoming national forum:

1. Section 55A of the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill must be operationalised as soon as possible.

2. Civil society organisations need to be given a chance to give input into the minimum standards on sexual offences courts as well as the regulations.

In addition to this we need to recommend that:

1. The functioning of the relevant departments and service providers within the criminal justice system be evaluated by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) in order to develop an improvement plan that will give rise to revised performance indicators.

2. Clear, consistent, disaggregated, integrated statistics are collected, collated and shared.

In the meantime, in the absence of improved performance indicators, we need to see competent officials concentrated within centres of excellence so that infrastructure, personnel and services can come together as they should. Let us hope that this incredible National Forum meeting will deliver at least some hope that these suggestions will be taken up and driven forward with the commitment they deserve.

 

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Kathleen Dey is director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. 

Mandela Day: 67 Minutes of Impact




The goal of our Mandela Day event was to pack 1300 care packs to be distributed at Thuthuzela Care Centres for rape survivors. The community came together with a determined spirit and gave their time to achieve this goal.

Checklists based on gender and age group were distributed to each individual who packed a care pack. As participants went around to the tables which were stocked different supplies, they checked off each item to ensure that the care pack was properly filled.

Tables were set up around the room, each with a different item to contribute to the care packs. Items on tables included soap, lotion, roll-on, shampoo, sanitary pads, etc. Some items were separated based on age and gender to best fit the recipient’s needs.

After volunteers finished their checklists, they returned their care pack to the final table where the bags were checked and categorized depending on the recipient. The bags for the care packs are hand-sewn by a member of Change a Life sewing project at the Rape Crisis Khayelitsha office which empowers members and provides an opportunity for economic contribution.

After the bags were packed, individuals went to the craft table where they could make a card to be packed in the bags. The table brought together people of all ages to put their coloring skills to use to make beautiful cards.

In addition to the crafting of cards, there was also an opportunity to learn how to crochet and craft “creatures.” The crocheting area gathered women and men together as they learned a new skill and shared stories. After the crocheted items were completed, a tag with a personal message was attached.

Our annual Mandela Day event was a success thanks to your help. The photos above are only a few of many that were taken throughout the day. Look for more to be posted on our Facebook page. Thank you to everyone that helped us reach our goal of 1300 care packs.

Photography by Rachel Yen

Rachel Yen

Rachel is currently a second year student studying sociology, media studies, and Spanish at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is interning with the communications team to gain skills in media and nonprofit work.

 

Help fight violence against women by giving your Mandela Day minutes to rape survivors

Last year was great, let’s make this year even better!

Rape Crisis counsellors offer 24 hour support to rape survivors undergoing a forensic examination in the hours immediately after rape. They treat each case with the utmost seriousness. They give clear information about what will happen next. They allow the rape survivor to make her or his own decisions and then support those decisions and offer emotional support throughout the process. They make sure the person has access to justice and knows what is required of them step by step throughout the journey.

Medical personnel offer treatment to prevent HIV infection, to prevent other sexually transmitted infections and in the case of women, to prevent pregnancy. A detective from a specialist unit takes a full statement.

This is a difficult ordeal to go through immediately after rape. You can imagine how desperate survivors are to have a shower as soon as all these procedures have been completed. That’s why we give each one of them a care pack containing toiletries, a change of underwear and other personal items.  These items are contained in a beautiful bag sewn by rape survivors in our sewing project. As one rape survivor said: “I felt so comforted by the toiletries and I am amazed that someone took the time to create such a beautiful bag just for me.”

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On Saturday 15 July we need your help to put these care packs together.  The contents of the packs are all ready and the bags we pack them into have been hand made by our Change a Life sewing project, a group of rape survivors striving for economic empowerment.  We need your help to pack 1 300 bags for women, men, girls and boys. What better way could there be to celebrate the spirit of Mandela Day than by giving your 67 minutes to support rape survivors?

On the day a rape survivor will be telling her story, our director, Kathleen Dey will be talking about the work of Rape Crisis and there’ll be a crafting space where you can make something special to put inside a care pack. Some people make cards while others knit or crochet small hearts to go into the packs.

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Please will you diarise now:

Date:  Saturday 15 July 2017
Time:  10.00am to 15.00pm
Venue:  Rosebank Methodist Church Hall, 2 Chapel Road, Rosebank
(Click here for map to venue) 

Please sign up by clicking here now to let us know that you will be joining us on the day.

Tickets will be sold at the door for R67 each. If you can’t make it, you could sponsor a care pack instead, by clicking here now. Every gesture of support counts in surviving rape. Each care pack costs us R120 to make up. Please use the reference #RCMandelaDay.

Refreshments will be on sale over the course of the day. Please click here if you have a food stall and would like to register to be a vendor on the day or phone Zeenat Hendricks on 021 447 1467.

Thank you for making Mandela Day meaningful by helping to fight violence against women.