Last month there was a furore when it emerged that a huge delegation of South African ministers and assorted hangers-on had forced themselves onto the guest list of the UN’s gender summit and then failed to attend a single session. And while Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and others were spending thousands of taxpayers’ rands on lavish hotels, under-funded community organizations were struggling on to halt the scourge of sexual violence.
The recent spate of marches and protests across the country shows the extent to which communities have had enough of shoddy – if not non-existent – provision of care to victims of rape and sexual assault. On Friday [15 April 2011] a wide cross section of community-based organizations marched on the KwaZulu Natal legislature in protest.
The level of anger is so high that when Bongiwe Zondi of Justice and Women asked how many people would be attending from Sweetwaters township near Pietermaritizburg, the reply was: “How many buses can you send to fetch us? We are tired of rapists terrorising our community!”
The marchers said that even if these rapists are arrested, they are generally swiftly released on laughably low bail and allowed to return to the community to intimidate victims and witnesses into withdrawing charges. Rape survivors are often not provided with post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection and also have to contend with shocking levels of ignorance and misogyny both from the police and the justice system.
Zondi recently took on the case of a lesbian who was raped. The magistrate in the matter chose to declare her an unreliable witness on the grounds that she had two children, and therefore could not really be a lesbian.
These are the very real challenges that community-based organisations face on a daily basis. But the National Policy Framework (NPF) mandated by the 2007 Sexual Offences Act, which could address many of these difficulties, is now more than two years late and has not been properly consulted around. The organizers of Friday’s march handed over a petition to the Legislature calling for movement and consultation around the NPF. Their action marks the start of a series of protests planned for the next few months by members of the Shukumisa Campaign to demand better treatment of victims of sexual violence.
The NPF needs to ensure that there are
- Clear standards for provision of services to victims of rape and sexual assault
- Clear time-frames for implementation
- Clear roles for civil society groups involved in victim support services
- Adequate services for people with disabilities, children and gay and lesbian people.
For more information please contact:
Amber Howard, Justice and Women 084 366 8086
Lisa Vetten, Tshwaranang 082 822 6725
Joan van Niekerk, Childline 083 303 8322
The KZN march was organized by Justice and Women (JAW), Lifeline/Rape Crisis, Family and Marriage Society of South Africa (FAMSA), Gay and Lesbian Network (GLN), Vulamehlo, Masiphile Projects, and Umphithi Men’s Forum