Thohoyandou - The Deputy Minister of Police, Maggie Sotyu, has urged police officers to treat victims of rape with respect and dignity.
Sotyu was speaking during the official opening of the Vuwani Victim Empowerment Centre in Vuwani village outside Thohoyandou.
"At local level, police should support, participate and network with health services, social workers, NGOs and community-based organisations that provide victim assistance, support and counselling," said Sotyu.
"Our victim-friendly services must restore dignity and the rights of victims and ensure they are protected."
She said the centre was built because there were many cases of gender-based violence in the village and surrounding areas.
"We are pleased to learn that the Vuwani Victim Empowerment programme has already been engaged in so many activities since, relating to domestic violence, child abuse, women and children's rights and responsibilities," she said.
Sotyu said the programme was running without a centre since it started in 2003 with the aim of tackling sexual assault, human trafficking, drugs and alcohol abuse, amongst others.
The centre would cater for about 80 villages around Vuwani Policing area, which covers about 750 000 people.
The national Department of Social Development is leading the National Prevention Crime Strategy, which aims to empower victims of crime and violence by making the criminal justice system more accessible.
"The strategy also aims to address the negative effects of victimisation through providing counselling and support services at local level," added Sotyu.
Deputy chairman of the Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders, Khosi Vusani Netshimbupfe, said traditional leaders would work with the centre to combat lawlessness.
"We want the centre to grow stronger and bigger so that abused women and children's cases may be simply addressed at the centre. We will support government's endeavour to help and support the victims of rape, women and child abuse," said Netshimbupfe.