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South Africa

Government moves to stamp out sexual abuse

The increase in the number of rape cases in South Africa has forced authorities to launch an extensive battle against child abuse by among other efforts, drafting an anti-rape strategy.
Charles Banda

The South African government has given a 300-millionRand (US$5 million) subvention to boost to the South African Justice Department was a sign that the
government was now looking at protecting women and children - but it might not be enough.

South African Police, head of Sexual Offences Unit, Thoko Majokweni however says it is difficult to gauge whether the additional US$5 million would be enough to improve court performances and protect women in court processes.

"What is exciting for me is the specific allocation of money into this. It does look like there's commitment from the government to put their money where their
mouth is," she said.

With South Africa's National Director of Prosecutions Bulelanu Ngcuka and the country's head of Sexual Offences Unit Thoko Majokweni rallying behind the
strategy, prospects are high that child abuse cases would dwindle.

Majokweni says the government has already launched a number of initiatives in its efforts to crackdown child abuse cases.

"The National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) has already began a rape audit to assess all cases of sexual violence, including those involving children brought
before the courts in the last two years," says Majokweni.

The rape audit is aimed at assessing the length of the time that is spent before a rape case goes to court; the type of sentences imposed; the prevalence of rape
and the types of rape according to area and the quality of evidence.

Majokweni says the South African government would only win its battle against rape and child abuse, if it finds suitable ways of encouraging those who experience sexual violence to testify - by bettering the treatment they receive from the criminal justice system and by ensuring effective court preparation.

Research carried out by South African non profit making organisation, Nicro, shows that a high percentage of rape cases fail because rape survivors are so traumatized by the criminal justice system that they are not able to testify.

"In some instances children are made to stand in the same court as a perpetrator and testify against the person," observes Nicro report.

South Africa's urgent move is to stop what rape organisations say is an increasing epidemic of rape. Police and non governmental organisations in South
Africa say that it is not only adults who are involved in perpetrating cases of child abuse but also children

A local health non governmental organisation, Teddy Bear Clinic and Childline recently presented a report that it is handling 300 cases of children raped in
schools by pupils and teachers. The NGO says the incidence of such rape cases is a result of the failure of education authorities to respond to their
request for action.

To compliment efforts by other organs of the government in the fight against sexual offences and child abuse, the South African courts are meting out
very tough penalties to sex maniacs convicted of rape.

Just as recent as December 4, this year a High Court in South Africa's administrative capital of Pretoria sentenced a mother of three children to 17 years imprisonment for allowing her husband to rape her 11-year-old daughter.

Pretoria High Court acting judge M.P. Tsoka in his judgment said Tsoka had a duty towards her daughter and what the woman did was 'disgusting'.

Judge Tsoka says he would not have hesitated to impose a life sentence on her were it not that investigations had revealed that she was of low intellect and have
been manipulated by her husband.

The 34-year-old man, who repeatedly raped his step-daughter, while they were living at Schubart Park Flats in Pretoria is serving a life sentence.

During his trial, the rapist told the court that it was the 11-year-old girl, who insisted on having sex with him.

His wife - child's mother - for three years denied that her husband had raped her daughter, but she eventually revealed the scandal and testified against

She told the High Court that her husband had threatened to divorce her if she did not allow him to have sex with her daughter.

The mother further revealed that on one occasion, she placed her hand on her daughter's trembling legs, while her husband raped the child.

Meanwhile the latest police report on crime in South Africa shows the police battling against crimes embedded in the "social fabric".

For instance, 50 to 80 per cent of the 1 000 crimes reported per week take place between people who know each other. In many rape cases, the report said, the
complainant and perpetrator had been drinking together.

In the case of sexual offences against children, only half of them have a chance of ending in a conviction. More than 50 percent of such cases are withdrawn
before they can be prosecuted.

The statistics do not reflect attempted rapes, but indecent assault dockets have increased by 1 132 to 8 815, compared to the previous year.

An analysis of 3 222 reported sexual offences against children younger than 12 shows that police often incorrectly recorded them as "indecent assault" because the victim's age had "prevented penetration".

"Many of these cases should actually have been registered as attempted rapes, a more serious charge than indecent assault," the report said.

Analysis by the Crime Information Analysis Centre also shows that guilty verdicts were secured in only 15 per cent of cases. Just more than half were withdrawn,
mostly at the request of parents or guardians "often because the accused is a family member (sometimes the breadwinner) or a family friend".

Almost 90 per cent of child rape survivors knew their assailants and most attacks occurred in private homes. "The question is raised as to how conventional
policing can prevent this and protect the young children of South Africa if not even the parents and guardians of these children are in a position to do so," the annual report said.

South African Police statistician Nkoshilo Seimela says their study on rape showed that there was a 40 to 50 percent withdrawal rate."

"Maybe that is because there is too much pressure on the victims to withdraw. Maybe that is because the perpetrator is a breadwinner and the family fears
losing out on financial support."

He said victim-survey studies, where heads of households are asked if anyone in their households has been a victim of a crime, are the most reliable form
of establishing the extent of under-reporting

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