Gender-based violence (GBV) is a pervasive issue in South Africa, with alarming rates of rape, domestic violence, and femicide. The South African government has recognized the severity of the problem and has made efforts to address it through various initiatives, including the Strengthening the Justice System’s Response to Gender-Based Violence.
The Strengthening the Justice System’s Response to Gender-Based Violence program was launched in 2013, with the aim of improving the criminal justice system’s response to gender-based violence. The program is implemented by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, in collaboration with civil society organizations and other government departments.
One of the key achievements of the program has been the establishment of specialized sexual offenses courts. These courts are staffed by specially trained judges, prosecutors, and court personnel who have expertise in handling sexual offenses cases. The courts also provide support services to survivors of sexual violence, including counseling and access to healthcare.
Since the establishment of the sexual offenses courts, there has been an improvement in the conviction rate of sexual offenses cases. In 2019/2020, the conviction rate for sexual offenses cases was 73.4%, up from 72.7% the previous year. The program has also led to increased reporting of sexual offenses cases, as survivors feel more confident in the justice system’s ability to hold perpetrators accountable.
Another important aspect of the program has been the strengthening of the Thuthuzela Care Centers. These centers provide a one-stop service for survivors of sexual violence, where they can access medical care, counseling, and legal support. The program has increased the number of Thuthuzela Care Centers from 27 to 55, making them more accessible to survivors in rural and remote areas.
The program has also focused on improving the training of criminal justice system personnel, including police officers, prosecutors, and judges. This training includes sensitization to gender-based violence issues, as well as practical skills in handling GBV cases. The program has trained over 1,300 prosecutors and 1,500 police officers to date.
In addition, the program has supported the development of policies and legislation aimed at addressing gender-based violence. For example, the program supported the development of the National Policy Framework on Gender-Based Violence and the Domestic Violence Act Amendment Bill.
While the Strengthening the Justice System’s Response to Gender-Based Violence program has made significant progress in addressing gender-based violence in South Africa, there is still much work to be done. The country continues to have one of the highest rates of GBV in the world, and there are still many challenges to be overcome, including the underreporting of cases, cultural attitudes that perpetuate violence against women, and the inadequate funding of services for survivors.
In conclusion, the Strengthening the Justice System’s Response to Gender-Based Violence program has made important strides in addressing gender-based violence in South Africa. The establishment of specialized sexual offenses courts, the strengthening of Thuthuzela Care Centers, and the training of criminal justice personnel have all contributed to improving the justice system’s response to GBV. However, sustained efforts are needed to overcome the cultural and systemic challenges that perpetuate gender-based violence in the country.