Public Protector calls on state to be responsive to the needs of victims of gender based violence

Public Protector, Adv Thuli Madonsela, has called on state organs within the criminal justice value chain to effectively play their part to ensure that victims of gender based violence get the assistance they are entitled to.

The Public Protector was opening a two-week exhibition titled “Brick Wall: Rape and the Criminal Justice System”, which depicts obstacles faced by rape victims as a result of service failures within the criminal justice system in Johannesburg last night. She said victims were often subjected to a maze of red tape, which resulted in unreported or withdrawn cases.

“The state has a duty to protect women and girls by preventing preventable harm and when harm has occurred, the state must care for victims and their families as well as effectively prosecute perpetrators,” she said.

However, the Public Protector pointed out that the criminal justice value chain often fails victims with the impact of not only subjecting them to secondary victimization but also denying them justice and human dignity. She added that in such instances of service and conduct failure her office comes in to right the administrative wrongs of the state.

Quoting statistics from the study titled “Tracking Justice: The Attrition of Rape Cases Through the Criminal Justice System in Gauteng”, the Public Protector highlighted the plight of victims of gender based violence.

The study which was conducted by Tshwaraganang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC) -the organizer of the exhibition- focused on about 70 police stations in Gauteng only, sampling over 2000 rape cases.

Among other things, the study found that half of the cases sampled resulted in arrest but only 42.8 percent of the perpetrators were charged; police closed 45 percent of the cases; and that in more than half the cases closed by police, perpetrators could not be identified.

The study also found that descriptions of perpetrators were absent from more than three quarters of the victims’ statements and that in more than half the dockets, instructions had to be issued twice or more before investigating officers complied.

The Public Protector also referred to cases of lost dockets at police stations as well as bungled medical examinations at public hospitals and clinics as some of the unfortunate occurrences that worsen the problem.

While Women’s Month reminds society of the sacrifices made by women in the past, the Public Protector said it also brought to mind the fact that the struggle for women’s rights and gender equality was far from over.

She applauded the TLAC for its advocacy work and invited leaders within the criminal justice system to view the exhibition in order to gain valuable insight into the plight of rape victims, who try to get justice.

The Public Protector also urged stakeholders in the state and the civil society to work closely with her office to ensure that that the state serves women and victims or survivors of gender based violence with accountability, integrity and responsiveness.

Published Date: 
Thursday, August 5, 2010