Craig Dodds

THE criminal justice system has come under stinging criticism for its failure to curb sexual violence following the rape and murder of Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booysen.

Nomboniso Gasa, of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, said yesterday “hard and urgent questions” needed to be answered, while DA justice spokeswoman Debbie Schafer called for the reinstatement of specialised sexual offences courts.

“First, we must ask why we have such low levels of arrest and conviction of those responsible for these crimes,” said Gasa.

“Why does it take so long for these cases to be resolved, to an extent that in many instances, witnesses who were initially willing to come forward can no longer be found? Why is the criminal justice system failing South African children and women?”

According to SAPS statistics, there were 64 514 sexual offences reported in 2011/12, or 127.5 per 100 000 people.

This compares with a rate of 2.1 per 100 000 in Kenya, 92.9 in Botswana, 27.3 in the US and 63.5 in Sweden, according to Reuters. It cautioned, however, that police procedures, methods of counting and recording, and definitions of rape varied.

Gasa asked in light of the “alarmingly high levels of rape, to what extent is it a central focus of the South African government? What support is given to NGOs and other structures that work for the creation of a supportive environment for those who have experienced violence and abuse? How much does our society invest in promoting the safety of children and women?”

These and other issues had to be addressed “with greater urgency than we have seen until now”, Gasa said.

Schafer said the conviction rate for sexual offences was “appalling”.

“According to its latest annual report, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) claims a conviction rate of 65.1 percent (of reported cases that result in a prosecution), yet, when we consider that 64 415 sexual offences were reported to the police in 2011/12, only 6.9 percent (4 500) of reported cases resulted in a conviction,” she said.

The Medical Research Council estimates that only one in 25 women who have been raped reports the crime.

Meanwhile, DA leader Helen Zille and parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko were due to take part in a Stop Rape protest outside Parliament today.