Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has appealed to communities to support victims of gender-based violence in order to break the stigma around GBV.
At the opening of the Sibasa Sexual Offences Court in Limpopo on Friday, Lamola urged society to work with government in rooting out GBV where it takes place. He impressed upon those present to help end the stigmatisation of victims and to report sexual offences.
“We must make sure that there is no perpetrator of gender-based violence who escapes the hands of justice due to victims not getting adequate support.
“It is sad when some victims do not attend court due to fear of being shamed by members of the community and we must reach out to all victims and support them,” Lamola said.
The Minister said societies need to return to the principles of ubuntu and morality to create safe environments for women. He committed that government will continue to work hard to ensure that those who brutalise women and children are punished.
“By opening the Sibasa Sexual Offences Court, we are affirming government’s commitment to fight the scourge of gender-based violence,” the Minister said.
Lamola explained that Sexual Offences Courts provide victim-centric services and they aim to reduce secondary victimisation.
The Judge President of Limpopo, Advocate Ephraime Makgoba, emphasised the need for prosecutors to be properly trained in dealing with victims of gender-based violence.
Makgoba said cases must be dealt with quickly and efficiently so that victims do not forget some of the important details of the crimes committed against them.
He said more courts must be launched in rural areas across the country.
Praise Kambula from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (Chief Directorate: Promotion of the Rights of Vulnerable Groups) said gender-based violence is a crime that takes way the dignity of women.
Kambula said women must be supported to report these crimes.
“Women cannot continue to live in fear,” she said, adding that women are afraid to report cases because they are subjected to secondary victimisation.
Kambula said Sexual Offences Courts are there to make it easier for victims to testify in a conducive setting.
Community pledges support to the court
Mukondi Sigidi, from Mbaleni village, told SAnews she is optimistic that rapists will be dealt with harshly.
Echoing the same sentiments was Avhamboni Mutangwa, who said she is confident that with launch of the court, rapists and all the perpetrators of gender-based violence are going to be given long sentences.
“Women are supposed to be free. They are not objects to be abused. They deserve respect. Whoever abuses women must be locked in jail,” Mutangwa said.
According to the Department of Justice, victims of sexual offences are usually reluctant to participate in the criminal justice system because of fear of the unknown, shame, humiliation and the fear of not being believed.
The Sexual Offences Courts were reintroduced by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in 2013 to provide specialised services to victims of gender-based violence.
Since August 2013, the department has been upgrading regional courts into sexual offences.
The Sibasa Sexual Offences Court is the 94th court to be launched in South Africa.
The Sexual Offences Courts are backed by the Thuthuzela Centres and they continue to yield conviction rates, and in the last financial year, the conviction rate stood at 74.4%.
At the release of crime stats on 12 September 2019, Major General Norman Sekhukhune told members of the Portfolio Committee on Police that police recorded 52 420 sexual offences between April 2018 and March 2019, up by 2 312 when compared to the previous financial year
Lamola said the Sexual Offences Courts will reduce the turnaround time in finalising rape cases and gender-based violence cases. – SAnews.gov.za