Sexual offences on the rise

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cape Town - Vulnerable groups continue to feel the brunt of sexual crime, according to crime statistics revealed on Tuesday.

According to South African Police Service's crime statistics for the period 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009, sexual offences increased by 10.1 percent.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa attributed this increase to changes in legislation.

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

The Act makes changes to the definition of what constitutes rape and includes a sexual offender register, and now includes all forms of sexual penetration without consent, irrespective of gender.

The Act also includes offences against children and persons who are mentally disabled, including exposure to or display of child pornography or pornography to children and the creation of child pornography, among others.

"This is still not good," he said, adding that police will only be able to perform proper comparisons at the end of next year.

Despite the overall increase in sexual offences, Mthethwa said government was heartened by the slight decline in crimes against women and children.

"Nevertheless, we are still not satisfied. Violence against women and children is still prevalent in society.

"This phenomenon militates against our national effort to create a caring and humane society, underpinned by values of human solidarity, justice, peace and development," the minister said.

To address this, the minister said the ministry was considering reintroducing the Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units after they were transferred to local police stations in 2006.

In 2006, the units were devolved to local police stations, because it was believed that increased oversight of their work strengthened their provision of services to communities.

Minister Mthethwa said today, the decision to close down special units that have focused on some of these crimes has been reversed.

"The South African Police Services is now auditing available capacity with a view to strengthening these units."