20 October 2006
South Africa’s draft Sexual Offences Bill introduces a range of new measures to help the country’s police and prosecutors tackle sexual offences against women and children.
The stated aim of the proposed law is to give the victims of sexual offences in South Africa – whether or not they themselves are South African – “the maximum and least traumatising protection that the law can provide”.
The Bill is currently under consideration by Parliament in Cape Town. If passed into law in its current form, it will, among other things:
- Redefine all “indecent assaults” – which carry a relatively lenient sentence – as “sexual assaults”.
- Redefine rape as involving any form of penetration without consent, whether vaginal or anal, and regardless of the gender of the people involved.
- Make provision for rape victims to receive treatment at selected state institutions within 72 hours to help prevent transmission of HIV/Aids.
- Prohibit any form of exposure of sexual activities to children.
- Declare all children and victims of sexual offences as “vulnerable witnesses,” to ensure that they are given the protection they need to help them lay charges and give evidence.
- Allow for children’s evidence to be led through closed circuit television, freeing them from the trauma of testifying in the courtroom.
- Abolish the “cautionary rules” relating to children’s evidence on sexual offences.
The draft law also includes stringent provisions that criminalise every aspect of child prostitution; provisions that protect all mentally impaired people from sexual exploitation; and provision for the supervision and treatment of sexual offenders
It keeps 16 as the age of consent for girls, and reduces the age of consent for boys from 19 to 16.
Advocate Aaron Raletjena of the Department of Justice’s sexual offence and community affairs unit warns, however, that the best law can still be “paralysed” by the actions of people
Addressing members of the Men for Change initiative of the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Pretoria on Thursday, Raletjena recalled that, while he was working as a prosecutor, a woman had refused to testify against her husband for raping her daughter.
“The husband had impregnated a 15-year-old stepdaughter, but the woman refused to testify against him because she was afraid he would stop financing their material life,” Raletjena said.
“The woman never imagined the pain that her child was enduring. I’m saying the biggest centre of human law is our own consciousness.”
The SAPS launched the Men for Change initiative in April to help shift perceptions regarding the role of men in society.
SouthAfrica.info reporter and BuaNews