Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women

Submission on Sexual Offences Bill 2003


Information about the Western Cape Network on Violence against Women

The Network was first established in the late 1980ís to enable organisations working in the field of Violence Against Women to communicate more openly and share information to the benefit of all. At this time in the history of South African NGOs, there was still much secrecy and withholding of information, as organisations were working under such oppressive circumstances. Therefore, the Network heralded a new departure and commitment to working together.

By 1996, the Network had recognised that it needed to formalise its structures. At the beginning of 1998, therefore, an office and Provincial Co-ordinator position were established. With this new capacity, it was possible to support member organisations in a more coherent way. The Network does not provide service delivery itself, but supports organisations, which conduct service delivery and which are responsible for advocacy, research and public education.

Today, there are seven regional Networks: Cape Town, Khayelitsha, Southern Cape, Klein Karoo, Central Karoo, Northern Suburbs and Helderberg/Winelands and over 300 members. Each region has a seat on our provincial management committee, which is the governing body of the network. There are four developing regions in Overberg, West Coast/Atlantis, Boland and Mitchellís Plain. The Network is currently developing local networks in small towns of the Central Karoo, Klein Karoo and Southern Cape in order to deepen the work that we do.

The Provincial Network office provides support by:

We are also committed to ensuring that Cape Town members are not unfairly advantaged (in terms of access to Network resources) over the rest of the Province, both rural and peri-urban and constantly aim to support all the work being conducted in the Western Cape. We therefore do a lot of travelling around the Province so that we have regular contact and communication.

Our interest in the bill

The Western Cape Network is interested in the bill because rape is one of the most known types of violence against women that women are experiencing today According to the Crime Information Analysis Centre, the statistics for rape are below:











42 429

47 506

50 481

52 159

49 280

51 249

52 860

Indecent Assault

3 874

4 873

5 220

5 053

4 851

5 762

6 602

The Medical Research Council research study of violence against women in 3 provinces found that 25% of women who had been raped in the previous year had reported it to the police. (Three Provinces Study, Jewkes et al, 1999) (P12). If we presume that this rate of reporting remained constant, then 211,440 women were raped in 2000. With these alarming numbers, we believe that possibly this legislation could be a starting point of a deterrent to curbing the amount of rape happening in South Africa.

Our point of view

We believe that the guiding principles (Schedule 1) should be incorporated into the beginning of the bill. The guiding principles are particularly important because of the treatment of sexual assault survivors. The law of the land should strongly encourage and promote the dignity and respect that victims deserve. By moving the principles to the back of the legislation, the bill shows that they are an afterthought, not a matter that should be considered first hand when dealing with rape cases. These principles are what will guide the implementers of the legislation through the process and should always be on the forefront of their minds.

Firstly we congratulate the bill, for its expansion of the definition of rape. Many women who have been raped have suffered the pain and humiliation of anal penetration just to have the rape reduced to indecent assault. This expansion also considers the experience of men who get raped which we believe will help male victims with rape perpetrated against them. We strongly recommend that rape be classified as rape in all of its forms. Whether rape happens with an object or with a genital organ it is still rape. Victims still experience the same type of trauma and pain. It is an intrusion on another personís body without his or her consent. These degrading acts should not be made less than what they are by the legislation. Oneís experience of pain and suffering from rape should not be lessened by the state.

Therefore, in Clause 3, the bill should consider sexual violation as rape. In the case where a 15-year old girl in Gauteng was forced to have sex with a dog would you not consider it rape? She has suffered the same trauma as any other rape victim, even more so, because it was with a dog. If an offender decides to use his hands to perform sexual violation, it is still rape. A person is still being stimulated sexually without his/her permission. In Clause 4, we believe that oral genital sexual violation should also be classified as rape. Just because an offender may find oral stimulation as a better sexual stimulation than vaginal or otherwise should not lessen that fact that the offender is still forcing another to perform acts that are not wanted by the victim. These lesser violations tend to lessen the victims experience and do not honour their right to dignity and respect because the bill is saying say that some parts of the body are not as important or as sacred as others. The part of the body used should not determine whether rape has been committed.

In Clause 7 and 8, we congratulate the bill for replacing the words idiot and imbecile; however, we would recommend the use of the word mentally disabled as compared to mentally impaired.

With regard to Clause 15, the Network is in support of protective measures being used for giving evidence by vulnerable witnesses and hopes that the legislation will promote the use of closed circuit television and voluntary support persons that are for these witnesses.

We applaud Clause 18 and believe it begins to promote all witnesses as having equal standing in the eyes of the law when it comes to testimonies.

Last but not least, the Network is in support of a treatment clause for survivors of rape. We strongly believe that there is a link between rape and the spread of HIV. We believe that law should promote prevention of infection of the HI virus. Not only treatment to stop the spread of HIV but also other sexually transmitted infections and prevention of pregnancy. Within the bill (Clause 19) there is a provision for treatment for offenders if they abuse drugs. The health of the survivor is not considered and is deemed as not important or of consequence as compared to the offender. Clause19, moreover, demonstrates that the state cares more about the offender than the survivor. Thus, it would be beneficial for a treatment clause for survivors to also be included.