Although there are many reasons GBV is not reported immediately, people should be made aware that there is no longer a prescription period on sexual offences. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA
Although there are many reasons GBV is not reported immediately, people should be made aware that there is no longer a prescription period on sexual offences. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency/ANA

Every member of society is obliged to report gender-based violence, says advocate

By Opinion Time of article published Dec 2, 2021

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by Advocate Lisle Nel

The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign is a UN campaign to challenge violence against women and children (GBV).

It runs every year from November 25 until December 10 and includes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, World Aids Day and the International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

The 16 Days period forms the centre point of the government’s view of 365 Days of Activism. It is not only during the 16 Days campaign that the team at Wynberg court and Heideveld Thuthuzela Care Centre address the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) but deals with the accountability of these offences on a daily basis.

The most important message that must go out to the community is to immediately report all forms of GBV. This will include any sexual offences, child abuse or neglect and any form of domestic violence.

In most of the incidents, the perpetrator is known or even a family member, and due to this reason, many offences are not reported. Children and women should report to someone they trust, the police or even at the Thuthuzela Care Centre, as soon as possible.

The Sexual Offences and Related matters Amendment Act, Act 32 of 2007, makes it very clear that a person with knowledge that a sexual offence has been committed against a child or a person with knowledge, reasonable belief or suspicion that a sexual offence has been committed against a person who is mentally disabled, must report such knowledge immediately to a police official.

Every member of society is obliged to report such knowledge, and nobody can excuse themselves not to get involved. Hefty prison sentences or fines, or both, can be imposed for not reporting.

Although there are many reasons GBV is not reported immediately, people should be made aware that there is no longer a prescription period on sexual offences. The Levenstein matter in the High Court and later confirmed in the Constitutional Court, paved the way for investigation and prosecution of matters which occurred as far as 20 years ago.

Many children and women also fall prey to perpetrators using technology such as cell phones and social media to take naked pictures for whatever reason. People should be aware if they share a naked picture with someone, that picture is out there forever and can lead to that picture being placed on social media or used to extort a person for sexual favours, which can lead to rape.

Children should not take naked pictures of themselves and forward it a friend. The creation of that naked picture, sending of that picture from one person to another and the possession of such a naked picture portraying a child under the age of 18, constitutes an offence. This type of offence is on the rise and should be regarded as very serious.

There are services available to assist GBV victims from the reporting stage up to prosecution. The Thuthuzela Care Centres is an initiative led by the NPA’s Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit, in partnership with various departments.

It’s a response to the urgent need for an integrated strategy for prevention, response and support of rape victims as well as victims of domestic violence.

The Thuthuzela Care Centres are one-stop facilities, aiming to reduce secondary victimisation, improving the conviction rates and reduce the turnaround time for finalisation of cases.

Medical services are provided together with treatment for HIV and Aids. The collection of all possible DNA evidence will take place where the victim will be treated with respect, empathy, and restoring of the victim’s dignity.

Trauma debriefing and counselling are arranged. Legal personnel are appointed at courts together with dedicated sexual offences prosecutors to prosecute sexual offences matters, ensuring justice for the girls, boys, women and men who are victims.

Advocate Lisle Nel

There are seven Thuthuzela Care Centres in the Western Cape. They are placed at hospitals to ensure the public can easily access the services. Centre's are at Karl Bremmer Hospital, Atlantis Hospital, Khayelitsha Hospital, Paarl Hospital, Worcester Hospital as well as George Hospital.

Many NGOs are focusing on violence against women and Children and are an integral part in the fight against GBV. Organisations such as Childline, Safeline, Rape Crisis, to mention a few, assist the police and the courts in the daily fight of addressing GBV.

There is help available. So speak out. Together, we can make a difference. We must stand united in the fight against GBV.

* Advocate Nel deals with sexual offences matters and was appointed as a case manager in the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit in the NPA. She provides legal services and assistance to prosecutors and the police in dealing with sexual offences.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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