Reinstatement of FCS Units welcomed

Friday, November 27, 2009

Groups working with women and children believe that the re-introduction of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units, is the right step in the fight against crime on women and children.

Despite the slight decline in crimes against women and children, government and the public still face serious challenges in being able to address the problem head-on.

Lisa Vetten, Senior Researcher at the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to end Violence against Women agrees that reinstating these units would be a positive move for victims of abuse.

"Abuse of women and children, domestic violence and gender based crimes remain one of the serious issues in South Africa. It would be an excellent step to reinstate these units," she says.

Vetten believes that for the units to function more efficiently, government should ensure they are well resourced.

The closure of special units that focused on crimes against women and children, a decision that the new administration intends to change, had led to extensive debate among stakeholders who argued that the victims of crimes against women and children needed to be addressed by people with specialised knowledge and experience.

Vetten advises that the experts who will be operating in these units must receive continuous and comprehensive training.

She adds that experts must clearly comprehend the current social trends associated with the subject matter and must have a sound understanding of the nature of these crimes as well as their impact on society.

Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, recently acknowledged that violence against women and children had increased sharply. He said the alarming increase had hampered national initiatives to create a caring and humane society, underpinned by values of human solidarity, justice, peace and development.

Crime statistics for the 2008/2009 fiscal year indicate that even though crimes against women and children have declined, sexual offences cases have increased by 10, 1 percent.

Under the new Sexual Offences Act, a number of new categories of crimes are now included as sexual offences.

The statistics also reveal that the total number of sexual offence cases reported nationally have increased from 63, 818 in 2007/2008 to 71, 500 in 2008/2009.

Security analyst at the Institute for Security Studies, Dr Johan Burger, asserts that the reinstatement of these units was long overdue, adding that government needed to financially strengthen and capacitate them to ensure that they deliver effectively.

"Although they will not precisely drop the crimes against children and women, we will however significantly see investigation processes being expedited and of course the high level of service will help in the conviction of perpetrators," he says.

He recommends that the units, particularly child protection and sexual offences, be centralised to allow experts to share experiences and to enhance the informer network.

"The decentralisation of these units before caused a lot of damage to their reputation which have seen the specialised experts working in an uncoordinated manner.

"This needs experienced experts rather than having four experts in the police station who sometime perform policing duties. The centralisation of these units will possibly produce significant results," Burger says.

Secretary General of Brothers for Life, Mandla Ndlovu, stresses that it is quite crucial for men to be part of these units, adding that it is time that men take responsibility and play a visible role in addressing the abuse of women and children.

"Men must be part and parcel of these units and this will further mobilize others to actively fight the abuse of women and children in our societies," he says.

Brothers for Life is a national Men's Campaign that aims to create a movement of men that will ignite and spread throughout South Africa.

It draws upon the spirit of Brotherhood that exists among South African men and hopes to encourage men to positively influence each other as men, partners, parents and as leaders.
In an effort to address challenges faced by women and children, government has established the Department of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities.

Spokesperson Sibani Mngandi is confident the department will work closely with the specialized units to ensure that cases against perpetrators are sped up and that the proper court judgments are taken.

He says the department trusts that the units will put together expertise in the form of professionals with specific skills to handle cases immaculately.

"Of course the units will have a positive impact. If they are well monitored, we will see the decline in terms of crime against women and children.

"The more these culprits are convicted the more we will see a drop in reported cases. We hope that the reintroduction of these units will assist the criminal justice system to operate properly when it comes to such cases."