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Four years after the introduction of new sexual offenses legislation meant to improve the way these crimes are dealt with by the police and other departments, the government is failing repeatedly to comply with its law, according to a report by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
The Criminal Law (Sexual offenses and Related Matters) Amendment Act, which came into force in 2008, was supposed to be the primary weapon in the battle against sex crimes.
But in a “Consolidated Progress Report” tabled in Parliament last week, the Justice Department noted that none of the departments responsible for implementing the act - including the Justice Department itself - had provided the annual progress reports required by the law.
The departments - justice, health, social development, police, correctional services and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) - also failed to implement specialised sexual offenses training programmes within legally stipulated time frames and to report this lack of progress. “This Consolidated Progress Report covers [January 2008 to December last year] to address the failure to comply with statutory obligations by the departments and institutions responsible for the implementation of the act [and] to provide annual reports,” the report says.Where belated reporting was done, the information provided was found wanting.
“A major gap in this report is that information cannot be disaggregated at provincial level as the systems of reporting are being strengthened and in some areas they do not exist,” the report said.
With the limited information at its disposal, the inter-sectoral committee for the management of sexual offenses, which co-ordinates government efforts to implement the law, has reported that departments are far behind schedule in putting the act into practice.
For instance, 79 police stations were prioritised to receive victim-friendly rooms during the 2011/12 financial year. After only 20 were delivered, the contract was terminated because of the service provider’s “inability to meet the contractual specifications”.
The police nevertheless claim to have created 900 victim-friendly rooms at police stations across the country in the past four years.
These facilities are meant to ensure that victims of sexual offenses may report these crimes in an environment “that upholds their dignity and respect” and where they can access crisis counselling, medical attention and other social services without enduring “secondary victimisation”.
In the Eastern Cape, Free State and North West, less than half the police stations have victim-friendly facilities. Only Gauteng (93 percent) and the Western Cape (99 percent) have reported notable progress.
Last year alone, 70 000 sexual offenses were reported at police stations - accounting for about 10 percent of all reported contact crimes. The Sexual offenses Act allows a victim of a sexual offence - or a police officer - to demand that the alleged perpetrator be tested for HIV. It requires public health facilities to provide post-exposure prophylaxis to victims of sexual crimes.- Political Bureau