The risk South African women face has been normalized and the many rhetoric and political pronouncements have failed to reduce the risks women in this country face on a daily basis, writes the Director of Wise4Afrika Brenda Madumise-Pajibo.
Police Minister Bheki Cele told South Africans last week that 13,799 sexual offenses had been committed in the first quarter of this year.
He said that of this figure, 10,818 people reported to the police that they had been raped, while 2,165 said they had been sexually assaulted.
Cele added that sexual offenses recorded a 13.7% increase over last year, with contact sexual offenses being the only decrease in this category.
This against the backdrop of a dismissive and tone-deaf response to a Constitutional Court ruling, by our politicians, in the case of Kawa v. South African Police Services.
The Constitutional Court found that the police actions were negligent.
However, in response to a question posed by the EFF to the National Assembly as to whether action will be taken against the officers, the minister and the police commissioner argued in a written response that there is no had no misconduct on the part of the police.
They said the court’s decision was not unanimous. And it’s the kind of flawed thinking and analysis that we’re supposed to base our trust on, and hope that police-reported sexual offenses will bring relief to victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
There is no doubt that more sexual offenses were committed during the reporting period, but we know full well that most victims do not report the incidents and even if and when they do, some of our police officers do unwilling or unable to record such incidents. Are we going to get a report on how the Minister of Police held these officials accountable and, or punished them?
In South Africa, every hour of every day, five women are raped. Moreover, considering the total number of sexual offenses published by Cele, approximately 153 criminal acts are committed against women per day in South Africa. This means that every hour of every day, at least six women are victims of crime.
As disturbing as these statistics are, they represent only a fraction of the daily and hourly criminal acts committed against women. Certainly, if these criminal acts against women are added to the total of criminal acts committed against all individuals across the country, the proportion of these acts against women will increase exponentially.
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Women in South Africa are at physical risk and our government doesn’t seem to care. Clearly, the risk that South African women face has been normalized and the many political rhetoric and pronouncements have failed to reduce the risks that women in this country face on a daily basis.
According to Cele, almost half of the reported cases, a staggering 4,653 rapes took place in the home of the rape victim or the home of the rapist. We know only too well that most criminal assaults on women are witnessed by many other people.
The question then is, aren’t those South Africans, who witness or know about these criminal acts against women, also complicit if they don’t report these heinous criminal acts?
Responsibility to report a crime
Recently, our media spoke about the responsibility to report a criminal act if one witnesses such criminality – a narrative that has gained traction amid reports of an accusation against President Cyril Ramaphosa in which he allegedly failed to report a crime. committed on his property.
The obligation to report a crime if a person witnesses or has knowledge of it must be extended to include criminal acts perpetrated against women. Such provisions exist, for example, in terrorism and corruption cases, among others. These are undoubtedly serious crimes.
Terrorism is a threat to our “national security” and corruption undermines the state’s ability to deliver services to citizens.
However, terrorism is not a daily or hourly occurrence in the country, and while corruption could probably be a daily and hourly occurrence, he still conjured up a Zondo commission. There is no commission to speak out about the criminal acts that are inflicted on South African women on a daily and hourly basis, and no visible attempt to ensure that eyewitnesses or those with knowledge of such egregious acts are forced to show up.
Our society seems willing to derogate from crimes against women and this is unacceptable.
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Statistics on published sexual offenses are and will remain just numbers that we use for research and funding purposes – no urgency, no outrage and if there is outrage, it’s brief, for this moment and we quickly move on to the next excitement – no responsibility.
Soon the police will release the second quarter crime statistics. We will follow the same movements – nothing more. I’m more interested in seeing a report on how these Q1 reported cases will be concluded, if they will be concluded – will victims and survivors get the justice they think they deserve? The jury is still out.
– Brenda Madumise-Pajibo is director of Wise4Afrika – an initiative that seeks to disrupt patriarchy by providing women-inspired solutions for empowerment.
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