President Cyril Ramaphosa has proclaimed legislation that would pave the way for more Sexual Offences Courts.
Ramaphosa hopes that such institutions will deal with the scourge of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) in SA more effectively than the current court structure does, and a revision to the law may assist in establishing many more such courts.
Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act
Last week saw the commencement of the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act, which contains revised legislation that makes it easier for courts to be convened with the sole purpose of weeding out sexual offenders.
“The Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act of 2013 (Act No. 43 of 2013) and Sections 35 and 38 of the Judicial Matters Amendment Act, 2017 (Act No. 8 of 2017) provide for specialised courts that deal exclusively with bail applications, plea proceedings, trials or sentencing in criminal matters that entail sexual offences,” said the President’s spokesperson Khuselo Diko.
“The commencement of the legislation does not apply to Section 4 of the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act of 2013 (Act No. 43 of 2013),” he said.
He said that the proposed structure will better protect victims of sexual crimes and ensure that often lengthy court processes don’t cause more hurt than good.
“The new legislation provides for these courts to have certain facilities and measures in place to render services that will better protect complainants, enhance the quality of prosecutions and evidence to be given in sexual offence cases, minimise secondary trauma for complainants,” he said.
As of September 2019, there are 93 Sexual Crimes Courts in SA.
Diko added that it will be easier to report crimes in such an environment, as well as provide testimony to ongoing cases and deter offenders.
Tackling Gender-Based Violence and Femicide
The Presidency has called this new legislation “a significant development in the context of the government’s implementation – in partnership with civil society – of the Emergency Action Plan on GBVF, and the fulfilment of the National Strategic Plan on GBVF”
2019 saw widespread anger as thousands of women were subjected to acts of GBVF.
When the Crime Stats report was released in September 2019, sexual offences had increased year-on-year by 4,6%, bringing the total number for recorded cases to 52 4200.
Gauteng is prominent in crimes against women and children, leading with 53 837 reported cases. Coming in second is the Western Cape with 46 092 reported cases, and Kwa-Zulu Natal follows with 33 667 recorded cases of crime against women and children.