Women’s Day: Justice Department continues to fail survivors of sexual violence
Debbie Schafer, Shadow Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development
9 August 2012
The long-awaited report on the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act, tabled in Parliament last week, has shown the Justice Department’s utter lack of concern with regards to the plight of women and children in our country. It has taken the Department nearly four years to produce a report on implementation activities, despite this being required in the Act. However, all the report does is show how the Department has not implemented the Act.
Not one of the departments with responsibilities in terms of this Act have implemented it. It is beyond ironic that the Department of Justice, which was responsible for the drafting of the Act, and the NPA, which is responsible for enforcing the law against ordinary citizens, have failed to comply. Both should be setting an example in respect of the compliance with and enforcement of the country’s legislation.
The Minister should be ashamed to have put his name on this report. Not only is it poorly written and clearly a rushed job; it is also extremely vague and highlights how much work still needs to be done by all of the departments. There is much talk of discussion documents and reviews but little talk of any concrete action.
For example, the Justice Department is in the process of reviewing the implementation of the Sexual Offences Courts Blue Print. This ‘review’ has been going on for quite some time now. The Minister has again said that he is “considering” re-instituting specialised Sexual Offences Courts. He has been saying that for months now.
In the wake of horrendous sexual offences statistics (when we are able to get statistics, which is another problem entirely), with reportedly 54 000 reported rapes since the beginning of 2011, we cannot afford to treat either the legislation or its implementation with anything other than the utmost urgency.
The Minister has said this week that he is expecting a report from the task team established to look into the feasibility of resuscitating the specialised Sexual Offences Courts by the end of this month. The DA will be watching intently, and asking questions if we do not hear anything about the outcome shortly thereafter.
We shall also be questioning the Department at our next meeting as to what they plan to do to ensure that they comply with the legislation.