No room for abusers

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pretoria - Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, has challenged communities to work with the criminal justice system to ensure that women and children abusers get locked up.

"Rapists and perpetrators of violence against women and children have no place in our society, they belong behind bars," said Xingwana.

Speaking at the official opening of Thuthuzela Care Centre at Kopanong Hospital in Vereeneging on Tuesday, Xingwana stressed the need to scale up initiatives aimed at protecting girls from rape and empowering young people in general. 

A concerned Xingwana said the three year records from Thuthuzela Care Centres for rape victims revealed that children aged between 12 and 17 years are most at risk of sexual assault.

"In just three years, 28 Thuthuzela Care Centres have been established in the country, with more than 34 000 victims visiting the centres for assistance. The group of children between the ages of 12 and 17 years are emerging as the most vulnerable group, constituting the majority (about 15 000) of the people visiting these centres," said Xingwana.

She said the establishment of the Thuthuzela centres across the country contributes to the campaign to raise awareness and prevent cases of abuse. 

"These centres are contributing to an increase in reporting of sexual assault cases as victims know that they now have a place to run to for assistance, where they are treated with dignity and respect," the minister said.

She said the expansion of Thuthuzela centres demonstrates the seriousness of government about fighting crimes against women and children. 

Thuthuzela Care Centres are one-stop facilities introduced as a vital part of South Africa's anti-rape strategy, aimed at reducing secondary trauma for the victim, improve conviction rates and reduce the cycle time for finalising cases. 

The project is led by the National Prosecuting Authority Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit in partnership with various donors as a response to the urgent need for an integrated strategy for prevention, response and support for rape victims. 

The centres operate in public hospitals in communities where the rape incidents are particularly high and are also linked to sexual offences courts that are staffed by prosecutors, social workers, investigating officers, magistrates, health professionals, NGOs and police, all located in close proximity to the centres.

At Thuthuzela centres, rape survivors receive comprehensive treatment and care including antiretroviral drugs to reduce the risk of HIV infection, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, prevention of unwanted pregnancy and counselling. 

Family violence, child protection and sexual offences units have already been established in all 176 policing areas. 

The units have police officers trained to deal with cases of abuse and include forensic social workers to assist child victims in particular to submit compelling evidence in court.