The Rape Survivors Justice Campaign

What is the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign?

We believe that rape survivors who are well supported in court make good witnesses. Good witnesses help achieve convictions and stronger sentencing of rapists. High conviction rates and strong sentences send a clear message to society that sexual violence will not be tolerated. These beliefs uphold and defend the right of all people in South Africa to live free from violence and support improved gender equality in our country.

The Rape Survivors Justice Campaign (RSJC) advocates for the planned and funded rollout of sexual offences courts across South Africa by the government.

The RSJC believes that the South African Government should be held accountable for making sure that all survivors of sexual violence have access to a sexual offences court.

Why is the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign important?

South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. We also have high levels of poverty and a very big difference between rich and poor in our country. These factors mean that rape survivors get very different kinds of support after being a victim of a sexual offence, depending on what community they live in and which police station they report the offence to.

We need more support in the criminal justice system so rape survivors will feel comfortable when reporting a crime.

“We need more support in the criminal justice system so rape survivors will feel comfortable when reporting a crime.”

Police do not always investigate a rape case properly. Even if the perpetrator is arrested, when it gets to court the survivor may be too distressed to answer questions from the prosecutor, magistrate, and defence attorneys.

Many victims find it very difficult to tell their story as they would want it heard. This is one of the biggest reasons why very few perpetrators are actually convicted and sentenced in court. Our research has shown that the government has also identified that improvements in the system are needed. In fact, the Department of Justice has promised to establish sexual offences courts across the country. But will the government make a strong enough effort to make this promise a reality?

Without higher conviction rates and stronger sentencing, the number of rape incidents in our country will never be reduced.

What is a sexual offences court?

Sexual offences courts are special court rooms that only deal with sexual offences such as rape. They provide specialised services to rape survivors and other witnesses.

A 2013 report details the Department of Justice’s new model for sexual offences courts, including the need for specialist personnel including specially trained prosecutors, court supporters and magistrates.

The report also notes requirements on the infrastructure of sexual offences court room layouts so that the survivor does not suffer secondary trauma from being in the court building. For example, it can be very traumatic for a survivor to walk past the perpetrator in one of the corridors. A sexual offences court has a special court room with a separate waiting room for witnesses and rape survivors, as well as a special testifying room with CCTV equipment so that children can testify from a separate room and not have to see the perpetrator while they talk about what happened.

Do we have enough specialised sexual offences courts in South Africa currently?

The South African Government has promised to implement sexual offences courts across the country, however; there are currently not enough of these specialised courts to serve the more than 50 000 survivors of rape that come forward to report their cases each year, let alone the many thousands more that do not.

Why these courts are important:

Sexual offences courts are important as they are sensitive to the survivor and help to:

  • make the trauma of a survivor much less.
  • speed up cases so they are completed more quickly.
  • make better court decisions or judgments because the people working in these courts are experts
    who are skilled and experienced.
  • give more people hope that reporting rape will work out well so more rape survivors will report
    their cases to the police.
  • get more convictions and send more perpetrators to jail.

How can I get involved?

You can get updates about everything that is happening in the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign by following the campaign on Facebook at RSJCampaign. You can also find more information on our website: http://www.rapecrisis.org.za/justice-campaign

Things that you can do to bring about change in your community:

  1. Join us…

Use social media to help us call for the development of sexual offences courts near you, using this information. Share the campaign’s status updates and photos with your friends and followers.

  1. Talk to a group you are part of about advocating for a sexual offences court near you.

This could be a community group, religious group or a group at your work. Tell them about sexual offences courts and the information in this booklet. If they want to join our campaign, let them know how they can learn more about the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign.

Support us

Support the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign today by scanning the SnapScan code and making a donation.

(SnapScan Mobile App is available to download on Google Play and the Apple App Store)

Donate online: https://rapecrisis.org.za/donate/

Find out more on our website: https://rapecrisis.org.za/justice-campaign/

Follow us on Facebook at RSJCampaign https://www.facebook.com/RSJCampaign/?ref=bookmarks 

Follow us on Twitter at @RSJCampaign https://twitter.com/RSJCampaign 

Call the Rape Crisis hotline 021 447 9762

Important Terms:

Advocacy: A series of actions that are done to work for change.

Criminal Justice System: A set of role players and processes set up by governments to control crime and to punish those who commit crime.

Download the RSJC booklet: https://bit.ly/2CY16Hw

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Making strides in fighting for sexual offences courts

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.

Locally, we have also chosen to specifically lobby for a sexual offences court to be established in Khayelitsha. Rape Crisis has an office in Khayelitsha and the police stations in the area consistently have some of the highest rates of reported sexual offences in the country without a specialist court to serve the community.

Here are some highlights of our achievements from the past two years:

August 2016: Launch of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign. We made submissions to the High Level Panel on Key Legislation about the importance of having a legislative framework for sexual offences courts in South Africa.

November 2016: We gathered in front of the Khayelitsha Regional Court to demand that it be upgraded to a sexual offences court.

December 2016: We made oral submissions to the High Level Panel on Key Legislation about the importance of a legislative framework for sexual offences courts.

March 2017: We made written submissions to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on the legislation for courts that deal exclusively with sexual offences.

May 2017: We made additional oral submissions to the Portfolio Committee regarding the exclusivity of sexual offences courts. We also engaged with Regional Court Presidents and the Deputy Minister of Justice to assist with the drafting of the sections of the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill 2016, that gives the Minister the power to establish these courts, including a definition of the courts.

September 2017: We Lobbied the Department of Justice to release the Regulations for sexual offences courts for public comment.

October 2017: We attended the National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act to lobby for the draft regulations to be released and to lobby the Deputy Minister of Justice for the establishment of a sexual offences court in Khayelitsha.

November 2017: Community activists gathered in front of the Khayelitsha Court and handed over a memorandum to the Deputy Minister of Justice to demand the upgrade to the Khayelitsha Court.

December 2017 to January 2018: The draft regulations were released for public comment. We made submissions on the regulations, specifically lobbying for a meeting with the relevant departments.

February 2018: We met with the Deputy Minister at the Khayelitsha Court to discuss proposed changes and upgrades.

March 2018: A meeting with the Departments of Justice, Police, Social Development, NPA and fellow Shukumisa Coalition members to lobby for the regulations to reflect attainable minimum standards as well as lobbying for specialist court support.

April 2018: We directly lobbied the Deputy Minister of Justice for the regulations to be finalised. We engaged with the drafters of the regulations regarding next steps and hosted a research panel discussion to highlight the successes and challenges of how courts deal with sexual offences.

May 2018: We submitted a report to the Deputy Minister setting out recommendations for the upgrades at the Khayelitsha Court.

July 2018: A meeting with the relevant Departments again to workshop the regulations. The main wins from this have been; the inclusion of court support in the regulations, the regulations will be a set of “minimum requirements” for sexual offences courts and the Department is tasked to come up with a list of minimum criteria for how to decide where to establish sexual offences courts.

September 2018: Consult with Rape Crisis’s court support team and coalition partners to on how the role of court support should be described in the regulations.

October 2018: Submit input to Department of Justice setting out the regulations relating to court support in sexual offences courts.

Initially the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign demanded that government rollout sexual offences courts in accordance with their own Blue Print set out in the MATTSO report[1]. However, through engagement with government decision makers in different departments as well as research done by academic institutions, we discovered that there was real concern that the model might very well be unattainable in the country’s current financial position. While the specialised personnel and services are key in reducing secondary trauma and ensuring that complainants continue to testify in a sexual

[1] Ministerial Advisory Task Team on the Adjudication of Sexual Offence Matters. The Report on the Re-Establishment of Sexual Offences Courts. 2013 offences case, the Blue Print also contains extensive and very costly infrastructural requirements. At most Regional Courts in the Country, these are simply not implementable.

We used the opportunity to lobby for the release of the Draft Regulations for Sexual Offences Courts, which will give detailed instructions on achievable requirements. While the regulations are still in draft form, we are pushing for them to contain minimum requirements for services, personnel and infrastructure at sexual offences courts with one goal: to reduce secondary trauma suffered by survivors. This way the objectives of sexual offences courts can be achieved within resource constraints.

The Departments of Justice and Constitutional Development as well as the National Prosecuting Authority includes the rollout of sexual offences courts in their Departments’ Annual Performance Plans (APP) and also report on the achievements of these targets at the end of their financial year. The rollout of sexual offences courts includes a staffing component as well as an infrastructure component and therefore the APPs will speak to these issues.

Hopefully by the end of the year, the regulations will be finalised and then Section 55A of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 32 of 2007 can come into operation.

 

Progress at the Khayelitsha court

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.

The current court supporter office is a container, which is located outside of the Khayelitsha court fence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2017 the situation at the Khayelitsha court did not change and we realised that we were going to have to gather there again to voice our demands for a sexual offences court. During the course of 2017 we lobbied the Deputy Minister of Justice to accept our memorandum at our gathering in December 2017. Upon receipt of the memorandum, the Deputy Minister expressed his intention to seriously explore the possibilities of establishing a sexual offences court in Khayelitsha.

As a result of our demands the Deputy Minister asked that the Gender Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU) include Khayelitsha in their study on improved case outcomes in sexual offences. We offered to assist with this, specifically focusing on the fieldwork at Khayelitsha taking place in January 2018. We also placed the issue of the office space currently occupied by our court supporter on the forefront of the agenda as something that should be addressed.

During our fieldwork, we reviewed more than 100 sexual offence court dockets. The outcome of this will be covered in a report that will be released by the GHJRU.

The Deputy Minister of Justice visited the Khayelitsha court again during February 2018, with the specific aim of improving the infrastructure of the courtroom and surrounding facilities that are used to hear sexual offences cases.

We enlisted the help of architect Tiffany Melles, from Michelle Sandilands Architects, who agreed to work pro-bono to design the improvements for the court. We then drafted a report and sent it to the Regional Head of the Department of Justice setting out the background, problem statement and recommendations. Our advocacy coordinator, court support coordinator, architect, Khayelitsha Court Manager, Area Court Manager and Senior Public Prosecutor at Khayelitsha met on 11 May 2018, so that we could discuss the plans and draft the report with them. They were very enthusiastic about the proposed changes. Following this meeting the plans and report were sent to the Regional Head and Deputy Minister.

This is the courtyard of the Khayelitsha court where we propose two new units for the sexual offences court supporters should be placed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we await the plans to be approved and implemented, the Department of Justice has prepared an interim office for the court supporter by partitioning a section of the intermediary room. This was done for safety purposes as the previous court supporter room was outside of the court security fence.

Our court support coordinator and advocacy coordinator have met with the Regional Head (Hishaam Mohamed) and two of his staff who work on court facilities. We convinced them that the mobile units together with the minor capital works proposed in our report and plans will, in fact, provide them with a long-term solution. Once the Regional Head and his team understood the logic of the plans, they seemed enthusiastic about our plans for the court. We want this court model to be the pilot for the country of the use of mobile units. As we stand now the Department is in the process of getting quotes for the ‘building’ works and we are in the process of getting quotes for the mobile units.

We are so pleased to have had such positive engagement with stakeholders as this project has progressed and look forward to working with the Department of Justice to make our vision for this court a reality.

Download our report: Report on Recommended Changes to Khayelitsha Court Supporter Office. 

Take a look at our proposed plans for the Khayelitsha sexual offences court here: RSJC Khayelitsha Sexual Offences Court plans.

 

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