New York Public Library – Roxane Gay and Aja Monet here
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A piece published by Rape Crisis Cape Town today points to the scary realities around reporting rapes and the likelihood of a conviction. Less than 1% of sexual offences result in justice for the victims. Follow the link to their website below for the full piece.
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 […]
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If you live in South Africa, watch the news or social media, or listen to the radio you’ll be aware that violence against women is common. You might also know that in the last five years around 60 000 rapes have been reported each year (that’s each year, not over five years). You could know that estimates vary but that statistically most women do not report a rape against them. You might know that most sexual offences committed against women are committed by someone they know, and that one in four men in South Africa has admitted to raping someone he knows.
When it comes to domestic violence you probably know a bit less. This might be because the South African police services do not report on domestic violence statistics annually, because ‘domestic violence’ is technically not a crime. Why technically? Well, because it depends on what type of violence that is, and it’s up to the police to record it as an incident of ‘domestic violence’. This means that sometimes it’s recorded as assault, assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, murder, etc. So, when the police report on these crimes against women (if they disaggregate their data at all) they don’t report how many of them were related to domestic violence. One figure we do have (you’ll see them in these interesting research reports at the bottom of this blog) is that over 200 000 new incidents of domestic violence were reported in 2011. That’s new and reported.
Suffice to say that we have a significant problem of intimate partner violence and violence against women in general in South Africa. There are two main laws which govern these types of violence – the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 and the Sexual Offences Act 32 of 2007. These laws define the crimes, prescribe the role of various Government Departments, and make requirements on those Departments to provide particular levels of services. What these laws (and others that affect women’s rights to safety, housing etc) don’t do, is require Government Departments to budget together. This means that each Department (that’s the South African Police Services, the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, and the Department of Social Development) has to try and estimate the scale of the problem, and ask for money to do their bit, separately and in a way that is not connected to working with other Departments or ensuring that victims of violence against women get the best and least traumatising service. Add to the fact that when the scale of the problem is so massive, these services are not going to come cheap.
Yes. I find it as strange as you do. When laws require Departments to work together in implementing them and don’t make sure each Department has enough budget to do so, they are essentially setting themselves up for failure. Even more importantly, when laws don’t make exactly clear what each Department has to do, it is really very seriously tremendously (do you get my point) unlikely that Departments will altrustically go on spending sprees to make sure those services are available.
At a research recent seminar three papers were produced on Government spending in relation to gender-based violence. Two of these looked at specific departments – the South African Police Services and the Department of Justice – and asked Departments to report on exactly what they were spending. The other tried to consider Government spending as a whole. This was almost impossible for a number of reasons:
Nevertheless, the third paper reached an estimate of Government spending at at least R311 051 687 in the 2013/2014 financial year alone. This excluded the costs of the Department of Health and Social Development who did not report. It also excluded the costs of the Department of Correctional Services (who had not yet been asked on their spending on the perpetrators imprisoned for violence against women), the Departments of Education and Communication who should be responsible for awareness raising and preventing violence in schoools, or the Department of Community Safety.
Violence against women is thus significantly costly for the Government. Urgent prevention programmes and responses are required to ensure that equal spending is invested in prevention as is spent on the response. Critically, Government needs to begin to consider how it could budget more holistically to ensure that services are standardised, and that each and every victim of violence regains her right to safety.
What’s important though is that the highest cost is obviously borne by the victim of violence. It is borne by those who survive it, and those who do not. It is also borne by those young South Africans trapped watching their family members inflicting violence against one another, and learning that this is the way that things are resolved. These costs have not even begun to be measured but it is certain that they will be very high.
To read the research reports, click the links below:
The recent outcry over so-called “rape jokes” posted on social media by two employees of FHM have caused an outcry – and rightly so. In a country with some of the highest statistics for rape and abuse of women and children in the world, such comments are completely despicable and unacceptable.
However other recent comments have been reported in the media attributed to a Magistrate in the Krugersdorp made when sentencing a convicted rapist to prison should also raise concern.
During the sentencing, the Magistrate allegedly stated:
“In prison you can rape prisoners if you feel like it; at least you won’t be around little children”.
This comment however has seemingly not caused an outcry amongst the public – and that is exactly the problem with how South African views the issue of rape.
In a country where rape happens to men, women and children, it would appear that the vileness of the act is determined by the social position of the victim, rather than the crime. This is supported by the fact that rape is a crime about power relations and South Africa is a society with substantial power contradictions. Statements like this magistrate’s make it seem almost as if the act itself is seen as the deserved fate of a person who is perceived as being “outside” of society. The comments also seem to condone the rape of prisoners by other prisoners as being acceptable within a prison environment – thereby giving credence to the argument that the outcasts of society are seen as fair prey, and seemingly deserving of their fate. This links to the issue of “corrective rape” so recently highlighted by the assault and murder of Duduzile Zozo, a lesbian in Thokoza, which unfortunately is only one of many such assaults that happen regularly to lesbians in this country. Rape should not be seen as the punishment for perceived outsiders.
Thus for an Officer of the Court to make such remarks to someone about what he can be free to do in prison is totally unacceptable. Not only does it highlight the very real issue of sexual assault and rape happening within the prison system, but it goes some way to giving licence to arguments that the State is not able to keep people safe in prison form such attacks – which is one of the arguments being used by the defence team of Shrein Devani to avoid extradition to South Africa for the alleged murder of his wife!
What kind of message is this to send out? South Africa has very high rates of interpersonal violence and assault, and instead of rape being condemned by society as a whole, it is almost seen as part of common culture and behaviour and only condemned in certain circumstances. The uneven reporting of the two incidents, and the lack of comment on the remarks of the magistrate, underlines exactly this problem and may well be one of the factors that contribute to our high levels of interpersonal assault where victims and the level of their victimhood is judged by their social position rather than the wholesale condemnation of the act of the attacker.