Joining communities fighting violence against women

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and children. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. It was started in 1991 by the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute and in 1998 South Africa joined the campaign.

These 16 days encourage all people living in South Africa and other participating countries to speak out and call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and children.

#HearMeToo is the theme for this year’s United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and one of the goals is to highlight and show support for activists and organisations that fight against the abuse of women and children. This year the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust will highlight some of the many organisations that we work with who work to improve the safety and rights of women and children in South Africa every day.

To all of those who fight to protect the rights of women and children, defend and protect them and care for victims and survivors, across South Africa and around the world, we salute you.

  1. The Shukumisa Coalition

The Shukumisa Coalition is made up of more than 75  organisations across South Africa including NGOs research institutions, law and policy organisations and community-based organisations that work together to ensure that the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act (Sexual Offences Act) is implemented, that the South African Government honours its obligation to put the right measures in place to address sexual violence and that these are equitable across the whole country.  Part of the Coalition’s work is to ensure that South Africa has well crafted, well implemented laws and policies in place that are developed through broad-based public participation processes in which women play a key role.

Website: http://shukumisa.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shukumisa

Twitter: @shukumisa

  1. The Women’s Legal Centre

The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) is a non-profit law centre that seeks to achieve equality for women, particularly black women through impact-based litigation, the provision of free legal advice, legal support to advocacy campaigns run by other organisations and training that ensures people know and understand the impact of judgements of the courts on the subject of women’s rights. The WLC also provides legal advice to the other non-governmental women’s organisations nationally and in Africa.

Website: http://www.wlce.co.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WLCCapeTown/

Twitter:  @WLCCapeTown

  1. Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)

LHR was established in 1979 to fight the oppression and abuse of human rights under Apartheid. It later helped the transition to democracy through its voter education and monitoring in 1994. Today it is recognised as being in the forefront of civil society when it comes to strengthening our  democracy. LHR is a human rights NGO whose Gender Equality Programme engages in strategic litigation defending and upholding the rights of women and gender non conforming people. In 2018 LHR acted as a friend of the court in the matter in which the Constitutional Court issued an unanimous judgement that there will be no time limit in which to lay a charge of any sexual offence in South Africa.

Website: http://www.lhr.org.za/about-lawyers-human-rights

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LawyersForHumanRights/

Twitter: @LHR_SA

  1. Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT)

SWEAT is at the cutting edge of sex worker advocacy, human rights defence and mobilisation in Africa. SWEAT has determined the discussions on a legal adult sex work industry where sex work is acknowledged as work, and where sex workers have a strong voice, which informs and influences wider social debates. SWEAT has campaigned for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa through Sisonke, a movement that was formed by sex workers because they were tired of being harassed by police, suffering unsafe and unfair working conditions, abuse from clients, pimps and community members, experiencing problems with access to services like social, health and police and problems with access to banks or opening accounts.

Website: http://www.sweat.org.za/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SWEATSA/

Twitter: @SweatTweets

  1. People Opposed to Women Abuse (POWA)

POWA is a feminist women’s rights organisation that provides both services and engages in advocacy in order to ensure the realisation of women rights and thereby improve women’s quality of life. It provides services to survivors of sexual violence and its advocacy uses a feminist and intersectional analysis as the basis for action. Services include frontline services in shelters, counselling, legal advice, media outreach, training and development, and feminist research and knowledge production.

Website: https://www.powa.co.za/POWA/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/powa.berea/

Twitter: @POWA_SA 

  1. Mosaic Women’s Healing and Support Centre

Established in 1993 in response to high levels of violence against women, Mosaic is an organisation that trains women and men from within the communities they serve to offer services aimed at addressing violence against women, domestic violence, sexual violence and improving women’s sexual and reproductive health. It is a community based NGO that focuses on preventing and reducing abuse and domestic violence, particularly for women and youth living in disadvantaged communities. Mosaic has been a strong supporter of the Stop Gender Based Violence Campaign to propose a National Strategic Plan to end gender based violence in South Africa.

Website: http://www.mosaic.org.za

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mosaicngo

Twitter: @mosaicwcape

  1. Sonke Gender Justice

Sonke’s vision is to have a world in which men, women and children can enjoy equitable, healthy and happy relationships, that contribute to the developments of just and democratic societies. Sonke Gender Justice works across Africa to strengthen government, vicil society and citizen capacity to promote gender equality, prevent domestic and sexual violence and reduce the spread and impact of HIV and Aids.

Website: https://genderjustice.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SonkeGenderJusticeNGO/

Twitter: @SonkeTogether

  1. Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC)

The Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to end violence against women (Tshwaranang) is a registered NGO that was established in 1996, to promote and defend the rights of women to be free from violence and to have access to quality services. Their work is primarily focused on improving government accountability on policy and legislative reform, the delivery of services and increasing awareness about and access to justice for women and girls affected by violence.

Website: https://www.tlac.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TshwaranangLegalAdvocacyCentre

Twitter: @endGBV 

  1. Gender Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU) UCT

The GHJRU is a research unit of UCT that unites scholars, practitioners and NGO’s to develop and implement innovative, interdisciplinary research and social interventions on social exclusion and violence in a range of social, political and institutional settings. They focus on foundational areas of gender-based violence, sexual and gender minority rights and reproductive rights. They aim to provide well-informed, evidence-based advocacy positions to support legal and policy reform in South Africa and similarly situated countries

Website: http://www.ghjru.uct.ac.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ghjruUCT/

  1. Centre for Law and Society (UCT)

The Centre for Law and Society (CLS) is an innovative multi-disciplinary centre in the Faculty of Law where scholars, students and activists engage critically with, and work together on, the challenges facing contemporary South Africa at the intersection of law and society. Through research, critical teaching and robust exchange, CLS aims to shape a new generation of scholars, practitioners and activists, and to build the field of relevant legal theory, scholarship and practice, that is responsive to our context in South Africa and Africa. The CLS Hub provides a supportive space for explosive debates around critical social-legal issues and is a space where students, scholars and activists can creatively engage in critical thinking and writing.

Website: http://www.cls.uct.ac.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClsUct/

Twitter: @ClsUct

  1. Child Witness Institute (UPE)

The Child Witness Institute trains and sensitises stakeholders in the legal system on how to work appropriately and sensitively with child witnesses in court. They identify and address underlying patterns of abuse, violence and victimisation that lead to cases involving children. Through engagement with youth and community groups, intervening where necessary, they educate, inform and help break pervasive cycles of violence, abuse and exploitation. The institute works across borders and nationalities to address ignorance, indifference and insensitivity and thereby create lasting, meaningful change.

Website: http://childwitness.net/contact/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheCWInstitute/

Twitter: @TheCWInstitute 

  1. Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) is a civil society organisation based at the School of Law at the University of the Witwatersrand. CALS is also a law clinic, registered with the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, that connects the worlds of academia and social justice. CALS practices human rights law and social justice work with a specific focus on five intersecting programmatic areas, namely Basic Services, Business and Human Rights, Environmental Justice, Gender, and the Rule of Law. It does so in a way which makes creative use of the tools of research, advocacy and litigation, adopts an intersectional and gendered understanding of human rights violations, incorporates other disciplines (such as film and social work) and is conscious of the transformation agenda in South Africa.

Website: https://www.wits.ac.za/cals/

Twitter: @CALS_ZA

  1. The Dullah Omar Institute (UWC)

The Dullah Omar Institute started its work under the name Community Law Centre, an organisation born out of the struggle against Apartheid. The Community Law Centre opened its doors in 1990 under the leadership Dullah Omar and played a major role in the negotiations towards a democratic South Africa. The DOI is a major contributor to policy formulation for South Africa’s constitutional order, and increasingly, elsewhere on the continent. Its Women and Democracy Initiative promotes citizenship and participation and supports other NGOs in making submissions to Parliament with strong focus on inputs to law and policy relating to gender empowerment.

Website: https://dullahomarinstitute.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CommunityLawCentre/

Twitter: @UWC_DOI 

  1. Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project (GRIP)

GRIP provides confidential, sensitive and comprehensive trauma counselling along with practical assistance and support to help rape, sexual assault and domestic violence survivors successfully obtain necessary health services, prosecute offenders and recover physically, emotionally and mentally with immediate, on-location services in police stations and hospitals, and via extensive in-home post-assault services. It operates in 26 Care Rooms which are situated in 13 police stations, eight hospitals and five courts and maintains constant contact with survivors through home visits and individual one-on-one counselling.

Facebook: https://bit.ly/2PR1U98

Twitter: @info_grip 

  1. LifeLine and ChildLine South Africa

ChildLine in a Non- profit organisation that works to protect children from all forms of violence and create a culture of children’s rights in South Africa. They offer online counselling and telephone counselling for children up to the age of 18, and a toll-free crisis telephone counselling line that deals with hundreds of queries from children and adults. They offer training programmes and recruit volunteers to operate a national helpline line that provides an invaluable educative service, receives calls relating to issues and problems including abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), sexual problems and pregnancy, learning and educational problems, harassment and many more. The ChildLine Toll free number receives approximately 60000 to 90000 calls per month across all the provinces.

Website: http://www.childlinesa.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChildlineSA

Twitter: @ChildlineSA

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How to talk about rape

 

Rape and violence against women is endemic in South Africa, but it is a thorny subject matter. How do we bring this discussion to the foreground in South Africa, what are the words we use and where do we start? 

Words matter. They matter because they are carriers not only of information, but carriers of feelings. When they land, words have the power to heal, revive, restore and educate but they also have an enormous power to debilitate and to trigger. But words are our thoughts, and without them we cannot speak, so how do we use them when we speak about rape? A violent scourge plaguing South Africa, encompassing noun, is not the heart of the very word [rape], triggering in itself?

One of the reasons mainstream media has come under scrutiny for reporting on sexual assaults against women is because they find themselves completely at a loss for sensitivity when it comes to reportage. So what do they do? They stop reporting on the incidents instead. Here’s what happens when issues stop appearing in the news – or better, appear less: Society stops talking about it, the discussion disappears into the shadow, voices are silenced, and communities suffer alone, by themselves.

Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis South Africa says, “Stories about rape form only about 1% of all media coverage. We need editorial commitment to increasing the volume of reporting without creating moral or compassion fatigue, so we need to be creative about how we produce content and messaging”.

Media needs to be at the forefront of taking on the responsibility about influencing society to have these conversations. Societies should be faced with stories that reflect sexual assault in a truthful, careful manner because a lot of culture in society is shaped by storytellers and one of the ways rape culture can cease to exist is by creating a space that is safer for women, girls and all survivors of sexual assault and one that is more threatening to rapists. But if we don’t talk about it, no one gets that message.

Dey also highlights the importance of engaging with communities, “We need to strengthen communication with communities affected by rape using multiple languages and platforms. We need to tell real stories about the lived experience of rape survivors being conscious of whose stories are told, who tells them, where they are told and how. We need these voices and messages to be amplified”.

 

“Journalists and other communications professionals need gender and diversity training so that they can speak to these issues in a more powerful way. Feminism has so much to teach us about how we tell stories and we need to have more discussion and debate at various levels on what this could be,” she continues.

The media is a mirror to society and society is a mirror to the media. So goes the old adage, but there is no time better than the present to take that very mirror and hold it up to those in government and make them face the scourge as well. The South African government has had its own anti-sexual-violence messaging tainted for too long by its very members committing a couple of heinous crimes which are not always adequately addressed. When the government fails, it also fails its people.

Dey says, “Government is a key audience. We need political will for addressing sexual violence now more than ever. Media can get to government… We need to challenge rape culture and explore ways of building a culture of respect for consent whatever context we are aiming to change through our engagements. We need to actively support women’s leadership”. That last portion begs special mention: Support women’s leadership.

Newsrooms, government offices and even police stations are rife with the imbalances of powers. Misogyny will always favour the powerful and silence the ones who have been sexually abused, sexually assaulted, raped etc. Up until the 1970s in some countries, women weren’t even allowed to testify in their own rape cases – she was considered not to be a reliable source of her own rape. Biblically, rape is referred to as a theft of property, not of the woman but of the father or husband. The men who “own” the women, and now, centuries after the great book we find ourselves in a position where far too few stories of women by women exist in order to bring about any real change.

Dey says, “There are few messages challenging patriarchy and challenging myths and stereotypes about rape.”

According to the Director of Rape Crisis, the media only report on about 1% of sexual assault stories. “There is a lack of a comprehensive messaging strategy on rape and sexual violence with key messages at the heart of each piece coming through without any degree of clarity.”

But while we work on our words, let’s make one thing clear: The discussion on rape needs to be made institutional in a way that brings about real change.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of ‘Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa’. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

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.

 

 

Comparing numbers on sexual offences statistics

Sean Abrahams. He’s still there. And he says he is doing a great job. He’s the head of the National Prosecuting Authority, and mostly famous for not prosecuting Jacob Zuma.

Many people think it doesn’t matter to them, and that the National Prosecuting Authority is a matter for politicians and journalists. Well, let’s take a look at gender-based violence; more specifically sexual offences. That’s an issue that you will know about, and in fact determines some of what you do. Those streets you don’t walk at night, those lectures you give your kids about people spiking their drinks? It’s because you don’t feel safe. One reason you may not feel safe is because rapists are not convicted in significant enough numbers. But how bad are those numbers really?

 Sean will tell you all is well. His NPA has a conviction rate of 72,8% on sexual offences. Sounds good, right? You can sleep better at night, knowing that?

Not so much. The number of convictions on Sean’s own version is 5 001.  The sexual offences crime category contains the crimes detailed in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act. Crimes that fall under this broad category include rape, compelled rape, sexual assault, incest, bestiality, statutory rape and sexual grooming of children – among others.

In 2016/17, the police recorded a total of 49 660 sexual offences, down from 51 895 in 2015/16. The vast majority of the sexual offences recorded were rapes, followed by sexual assaults.

If 49 660 cases were reported why are there only 5 001 convictions? Even if Sean’s maths is as bad as mine, that’s not 72,8% percent.  So, what’s going on?

Well, at the essence of it is the number of cases that make it to prosecution. At a Rape Crisis event in Cape Town showcasing research on sexual offences courts in May, Lisa Vetten reported on recent research on statistics around convictions. According to her findings an arrest is made in only 57% of cases and only 65% of those were referred for prosecution. Prosecutors accepted 34,4% and these were enrolled for trial. Trials started in 18,5% cases and 8,6% cases were finalised, with a verdict of guilty of a sexual offence.  

With these new statistics in mind it makes us wonder what Sean is talking about? In the 2017/2018 reporting period only an estimated 6 868 sexual offences cases were prosecuted and of these 5 001 resulted in convictions. This is where the National Prosecuting Authority gets their 72,8% success rate statistic.  Sean is therefore only referring to the handful of cases that his staff have cherry picked for prosecution, which have really good prospects of success. What is a ‘good’ rape case? This is usually seen as a respectable, presentable victim, who is sober, badly injured, and has only enough of a relationship with the perpetrator to identify him. What’s a bad case? On the whole this is seen as anyone who is too young, too old, had a few beers, was in the wrong place, or the investigating officer didn’t investigate properly.

 Case investigations are led by constables, in half of the cases. In half the cases the perpetrator was fully named and in 70% of these cases his or her contact details were also supplied. There are nevertheless many cases where the police investigation and documentation of this is deficient. In the dockets the address of the complainant is not always recorded (2,1% of cases), the complainant statement was not signed (13,4% of cases) and the complainant or guardian’s telephone number was missing (21,5% of cases). In only 7% of cases was it noted that the Investigating Officer’s name and contact number had been given to the complainant.

So that’s part of why prosecutors declined to prosecute in 47,7 % of cases referred by police for prosecution. It also explains how the NPA can claim a 72,8% success rate on convictions. As we can see, the actual stats show a very different story when it comes to sexual offences and violence against women.

Sean Abrahams. He’s still there. And he says he is doing a great job. 

 Find out more about what makes a strong rape case from the courts perspective here: https://rapecrisisblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/evidence-rape-court-case/

Download the full report: Rape Justice In South Africa: A Retrospective Study Of The Investigation, Prosecution And Adjudication Of Reported Rape Cases From 2012: http://www.mrc.ac.za/reports/rape-justice-south-africa-retrospective-study-investigation-prosecution-and-adjudication

 

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Alison Tilley is an attorney, and the head of advocacy at the Open Democracy Advice Centre, which is a law centre based in South Africa, specialising in access to information and whistleblowing law. The Centre works on these transparency issues across Africa.www.opendemocracy.org.za