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24 October 2012 at 12:01 - Posted by Midrand

Alarm over rape conviction rate - SANEWS


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October 23 2012 at 02:45pm
Cape Town - The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) has raised concerns over the low conviction rate of finalised sexual offences cases revealed by the National Prosecution Authority’s (NPA) 2011/12 annual report.

Director of the WLC, Jennifer Williams, pictured, said in a statement that the WLC has for a long time been alarmed by the low number of reported rapes and the low conviction rate in sexual offences. She attributed this to systemic failure in the justice system.

According to the statistics released by the police, 66 196 incidents of sexual offences were reported between 2010 and 2011, and only 4 501 of these cases resulted in convictions.

Williams said the difficulty is with the implementation of the law.

She said the failings in the criminal justice system result in women not reporting cases, unwarranted delays in the prosecution of trials and re-traumatisation of women survivors, which affects their ability to be good witnesses.

“This, in turn, puts women off reporting rape and where they do and reduces the chances of securing a conviction,” she said.

The WLC has handled 103 queries relating to sexual offences and gender-based violence between January and August.

Managing director of The Saartjie Baartman Centre, Synnov Skorge, echoed the WLC sentiments on Monday.

“There are a high proportion of sexual abuse cases that go unreported and those that are do not receive a positive response,” she said.

“Some women don’t report sexual abuse because they are scared they will become further victimised. Not only should there be a functioning criminal justice, there should also be a safety element in place for women and children to ensure that justice is done.”

A household survey by the Department of Health shows that only 15 percent of rape survivors between the ages of 15 and 49 years reported offences to police.

This means that the conviction rate has dropped to below 1 percent when calculated on the actual number of incidents of sexual offences. - The Argus

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