NGO calls for better sexual offences court

Rape Crisis advocacy co-ordinator, Mandisa Mbotshelwa handing over the memorundum of grievances to Richard Dyantyi.

Members of Rape Crisis picketed outside the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday December 10 to demand proper infrastructure for the sexual offences court on the premises.

The organisation sang and carried placards demanding justice for rape victims before handing their memorandum of grievances to Richard Dyantyi, a portfolio committee member on justice and correctional services in parliament.

The organisation said that in 2016 they initiated a campaign advocating for the implementation of sexual offences courts.

They told Vukani that the Constitutional court signed a regulation act last year stating that sexual offences courts should be implemented and outlined specific needs and requirements needed for the proper functionality of the court.

But the organisation said Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court has failed to implement these requirements.

The organisation said the regulation act states that these courts could be implemented in the already existing courts.

Rape Crisis advocacy co-ordinator, Mandisa Mbotshelwa, said the current set-up of the court is not welcoming for rape survivors and people living with disabilities. Ms Mbotshelwa said when they visited the court in August to conduct monitoring and evaluation, they discovered there was no separate entrance for rape survivors.

Among other things, she said they wanted rape survivors to have separate toilets and waiting rooms. She said they need personnel that would assist those who are blind and want the courts to be friendly towards rape survivors.

Ms Mbotshelwa said through their efforts they wanted to ensure that these courts provided the best services. She said they wanted to ensure that the personnel designated to assist rape victims were properly trained and were able to deal with such matters with the sensitivity it deserves.

“The reason we want to have a separate entrance for rape victims is because we do not want them to meet their rape perpetrators as that could cause a secondary trauma.

“We want them to have privacy and we also want them to have a space where they can freely express their feelings.

“We did a monitoring and evaluation in August to raise our concerns and issues with the court management. They agreed with us that indeed the court did not have all these criteria and requirements.

“We hope that these things would be fixed as soon as possible,” she said. Ms Mbotshelwa said they wanted to see rape victims get full justice. Advocacy volunteer Ncediwe Singiswa said the sexual offences court started operating this year but felt that it was not effective and did not meet requirements.

Ms Singiswa said the court was not friendly and they discovered that the court support was situated in a separate space.

Ms Singiswa said the sexual offences court was not friendly to children or senior citizens.

Mr Dyantyi said before accepting the memorandum he first conducted an evaluation in the court so that he could get a proper understanding of their grievances. But he said he was not impressed with the entire court structure and that was also a concern.

He said they should not only meet during protests but should have continuous engagement and hoped that these issues could be addressed before this date again next year.