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Cape Town - To end our Women's Month #WeRemember campaign, which honoured the victims of gender-based violence, we asked experts, officials and the public how they think South Africa can bring an end to this scourge. Here Kathleen Dey of Cape Town NPO Rape Crisis gives her view:

Rape Crisis has a campaign called the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign that is designed to answer exactly this question by placing the solution directly in the hands of the government. 

In summary, we believe that rape survivors who are well supported in court make good witnesses. Good witnesses help achieve convictions and strong sentencing of rapists. And high conviction rates and strong sentences send a clear message to society that violence against women and members of the LGBTI community will not be tolerated. This upholds and defends the right of all people in South Africa to live free from violence and supports improved gender equality in our country. 

In pursuit of this logic, the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign has focused on the rollout of specialised sexual offences courts as well as the criteria for defining these courts and the laws that govern and regulate the establishment and functioning of these courts. We want to implement a planned lobbying, advocacy and media advocacy strategy that will see government roll out 10 new sexual offences courts per year over the next three years. 

Over the course of the campaign, we have discovered that it is very difficult to get a clear picture from the government of how many courts have been established, where they have been established and whether or not they function effectively according to the government’s stated best practice model.

Nonetheless, in the past two years, we have had significant campaign successes. We were able to stop legislation that would have ended the exclusive nature of the courts. 

We raised concerns about government’s failure to operationalise the legal framework for these courts after a delay of four years and saw the first draft of court regulations circulated. We commented on these regulations in the form of a written submission to the Department of Justice. We mobilised a significant number of coalition partners with whom we are assisting the Department of Justice in drafting the new court regulations through a series of consultations including a planned meeting with the Regional Courts Presidents. We have successfully petitioned the Department of Justice to upgrade the Khayelitsha court through local community action. 

We plan to partner with the Shukumisa Coalition in order to conduct many of the planned activities outlined under the project objectives. This coalition includes as many as 60 civil society organisations, independent academic institutions, research organisations, legal advocacy organisations and community-based organisations from all nine provinces across South Africa. 

* Read more about the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaigns here: https://rapecrisis.org.za/justice-campaign