Report from a Workshop on Rape and the SAPS

On 16 May 2011 the President assented to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Act. Once the Act starts being implemented it will transform the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) into the IPID. It will be compulsory for the SAPS to report all rapes by police officers and all rapes occurring in police cells to the IPID. The IPID must investigate these reports.

On 24 May the ICD convened a workshop to talk about how to take up these cases.

Some fascinating information about this hidden crime emerged:

  • About 25 such rapes have been reported annually for the last three years.
  • Rapes are committed most often when women are arrested, or during the course of a police investigation, or at roadblocks.
  • Another common scenario is the rape of a woman, or teenage girl, who has accepted a lift from a police officer.
  • Some female police officers have been raped by their male colleagues.
  • Male police officers have raped their female partners and other female family members.
  • Rape and sexual abuse of sex workers by police officers is very under-reported.
  • Almost nothing is known about rape in police custody. Transgender sex workers have it particularly hard. The police aren’t sure whether to treat them as men or women and usually put them in police cells with other men who assault or rape them.

What’s particularly disturbing is how few of these cases go anywhere. In the last three years, there have been only four dismissals by the SAPS and five completed trials.

So what’s to be done? These were some of the suggestions put forward:

  • Training for IPID investigators so that they can develop specialised skills
  • Special reporting mechanisms for sex workers when their rights are abused
  • Mechanisms different to criminal charges to strengthen response and accountability
  • Adapting the IPID regulations to guide how the police work with IPID investigators
  • Widespread publicity around the IPID’s new role
  • Changes to the laws that deal with police disciplinary processes
  • Ensuring that regular cell inspections and procedures are followed to prevent rapes in custody
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