NGO calls for establishment of sexual offences court

Rape Crisis members and volunteers protesting outside court.

Scores of Rape Crisis members picketed outside Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court, last Wednesday, November 30, demanding a dedicated Sexual Offences Court, as part of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

The advocacy group said it would take to the streets to demand the roll-out of sexual offences courts. Among other things, the NGO demanded that women be given more access to specialised sexual offences courts which would deal only with sexual offences and have specialised facilities and services available to ensure survivors were not further traumatised by the legal process.

The group said only 43 such courts existed in the country and they were all clustered in urban areas. Singing and chanting, they demanded that all survivors of sexual offences have access to a sexual offences court that provided survivor-centred justice and that government establish the courts according to the agreed model in Khayelitsha.

The advocacy group said rape remained a crisis in Khayelitsha and that to turn the tide against rape cases, government needed to take it seriously.

Rape Crisis spokeswoman Jeanne Bodenstein said the lack of sexual offences courts left victims with little hope.

“The government needs to provide on its promises. A place like Khayelitsha is rated number one in country when it comes to rape, but does not have this court. That is something we should not let go unchallenged. A normal court does not give support to victims,” she said.

“Being raped is an extremely painful and traumatic experience. If they established that court, testifying would be less traumatic. People will stay on with their cases. More specifically, we call for sexual offences courts to be established to serve the communities of Khayelitsha and Athlone,” she said.

Khayelitsha Court manager Velile Yayi said there was a national roll-out and his court was part of that. He said the new model would soon be established. “It is not that we do not have the sexual offences courts, but it is in need of a revamp. We are on the list for the new courts. Surely by next year we will be talking another language.

The wheel is slowly turning but surely it will happen,” he said.

A Khayelitsha resident, who said his child had been raped, said it would be a good ideal to have a safer court where rape survivors could testify.