Johannesburg - Acting National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Head, Advocate Mokotedi Mpshe has called on the judicial system to take stronger action against rapists who continue to terrorise the vulnerable.
Speaking at the NPA's second Sexual Offenses Indaba on Monday, Adv Mpshe said in order to send a sound message to perpetrators, the judiciary system needed to be harsher in sentencing rapists.
"Women, young girls and even men and boys are not safe anymore. This is a tragedy and it reminds everyone to be more cautious and be active in fighting this crisis," he said, adding that the judiciary must act vigilantly in rape cases.
The three-day Indaba, which is organised by the NPA's Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) Unit, aims to provide a platform for non-government organisations, government, academics and other stakeholders to find key approaches that will help in curbing rape.
Adv Mpshe said he was concerned with some of the sentences imposed on offenders as well as the number of acquittals reported.
According to statistics from the Medical Research Council (MRC), South Africa is one of the countries with the highest number of rapes in the world. According to the results released, more than 54 000 rapes of women and children were reported to the police in 2005/2006.
"Of all the rapes reported to the police, 40 percent of the rapes were children under 18 years and 15 percent were children under 12 years," the MRC said.
Director of MRC's Gender and Health Research Unit and Secretary of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative, Professor Rachel Jewkes said South Africa faced a globally unprecedented burden of mortality and morbidity from gender-based violence and injuries.
Prof Jewkes said the country's rate of female homicide by an intimate partner is six times the global average, with a woman killed every six hours by her husband or boyfriend.
She said according to the research, women were not the only people being victimised as the results revealed that there was a high prevalence of 9.6 percent of men that have been raped by other men.
In 2002, in response to the alarming rape statistics, Cabinet instructed the Head of the Departments of Social Development and Health to develop an Anti Rape Strategy. This process was transferred to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Thereafter, an Inter - Departmental Management Team (IDMT) chaired by the SOCA Unit was established, which developed the Thuthuzela Care Centre Model (TCC) as one of the initiatives to address rape-care management. Thuthuzela means to comfort.
The TCC is led by SOCA in partnership with other departments and donors as a response to the urgent need for an integrated strategy for prevention, response and support for rape victims.
Special Director of SOCA Unit, Advocate Thoko Majokweni said the TCC was a victim-centered approach that not only allowed for victim empowerment but journeys the victims through the criminal justice system.
She added that the TCC had helped to transform victims of violence to survivors and ultimately to empowered witnesses in the criminal justice process.
"This project has enabled us to improve the care and treatment of rape of victims at all points in the criminal justice system thereby reducing secondary victimisation.
"It has also ensured speedy, effective investigation and prosecutions of rape cases, reduction in cycle times and increased the number of convictions," Adv Majokweni said.
She emphasised that since the establishment of Thuthuzela, victims have been able to communicate their experiences and be more transparent about the attack which has led to the impressive increase of convictions.
About 45 percent of convictions have been reported, however Adv Mjokweni lamented that the number of acquitters was the issue of concern.