Society

South African Parliament calls on police to be sensitive to survivors of rape

It comes after a mother was turned away twice while trying to report the rape of her 3-year-old.

AP Photo

AP Photo

South Africa’s justice system needs to stop victimising survivors of rape. This declaration was made by the chairperson for the portfolio committee on women, youth, and persons with disabilities, Nonhlanhla Ncube-Ndaba.

Ncube-Ndana released a statement on Monday calling on the police to be sensitive to people reporting rape and sexual assault.

Her statement follows news that the mother of a 3-year-old who was raped by a man in his 40s struggled to report the case after police in two stations in Cape Town turned her away.

“The mother of the child tried to report the case to two police stations without any success,” Ncube-Ndana said.

She further revealed in the statement that the mother had been turned away from the first police station in Harare, Cape Town, because the case was too sensitive to handle. At the second, the mother was allegedly told the detective in charge of sexual violence cases wasn’t available.

Ncube-Ndaba heard about the incident from a concerned community member, she said.

She said the police continuing to victimise survivors for a second time when they try to report a crime is a failure to deliver justice — a problem that President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged in several addresses he has made against GBV.

The mother and her child were allegedly only able to report the case after Ncube-Ndaba’s intervention.

“This will lead to perpetrators escaping sanction for the crimes they have committed,” Ncube-Ndaba told parliament. “It is secondary victimisation. There is a dedicated Nyanga Cluster Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) to deal specifically with such crimes. How is it that a victim of sexual offence was turned away?”

Gender-based violence is, without a doubt, one of the biggest problems facing South Africa.

According to one organisation working to combat GBV, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, rape in South Africa “has reached pandemic proportions.”

Despite the social reforms and work done by individuals and organisations against sexual assault and rape, the numbers annually “are not decreasing,” added the group. “With 400 rapes a day, along with the mass of other violent crimes, we are a traumatised nation.”

Just last week, the South African Police Service (SAPS) released crime statistics for the period between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019.

The report indicates that seven women are murdered every day in South Africa, while 24,387 sexual offences were reported over the year period.

The report also shows that 1,184 women survived attempted murder; 7,815 women survived assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm; and 10,829 survived assault.

The picture is just as grim when it comes to crimes against children.

A reported 1,014 children were killed in the same period, which amounts to three children murdered every day; while 1,184 children survived attempted murder.

Meanwhile there were 24,387 sexual offences against children. The SAPS also investigated 7,815 cases of assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and 10,829 cases of common assault involving children.

“Child abuse and rape have no place in our society,” Ncube-Nbada said. “We call upon men, women, and children to stand up and make their voices heard.”.

“Whilst we applaud the police for the action in this case, it is important for law enforcement agencies to treat all cases of gender-based violence with the urgency required, as the recent crime stats indicate that the country is under serious attack,” she added.

Ndaba-Ncube’s committee will reportedly have a meeting later this week with the ministry of women, youth, and persons with disabilities to discuss the National Strategic Plan on gender-based violence and femicide, and the establishment of the National Council on gender-based violence.

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