Prevalence of Sexual Offences on an Alarming Increase

Jenny Hartnick

DA Western Cape Spokesperson for Youth, Women and People with disability and Member of Provincial Legislature

The prevalence of sexual offences against children seems to be on an alarming increase in the Western Cape. For this reason it is a very serious concern that the Sexual Offences Act is insufficient in dealing with many issues pertaining to sexual abuse. A landmark judgement by the Cape High Court on 11 May 2012 has invalidated charges under 29 sections of the Act against suspected offenders.

Last week, 7 May 2012, three cases involving sexual offences against minors in Darling, George and Bellville were widely publicised in the media. The Darling case involved a brave 9 year old girl who survived her kidnapping, rape, assault and attempted murder by a family friend in October 2010. However, she is left with permanent disability after the attack. She is paralysed in both legs and right arm and will suffer from permanent brain damage. This case marks the third time this specific accused is in court on rape charges. In 1990, he was sentenced to 10 years for rape and in 1997 he was sentenced to 6 years for sodomy and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. In 2006, he was found guilty on charges of attempted rape, the very charges for which he was on parole when the 9 year old girl was raped.

In George, a man faces 13 sex-related charges, which include indecent assault, kidnapping, using children for pornography and sexual exploitation of children. The accused’s youngest victim is an eight year old girl, who was allegedly raped in his Land Rover. There is a possibility that the accused could face more rape charges.

In Bellville, a 73 year old man was found guilty of 95 charges relating to sexual assault, sexual grooming and child pornography. The accused admitted to taking naked photographs of two girls, aged 13 and 14 and grooming them by showing them various poses and sex toys.

As spokesperson for the DA Western Cape on Premier, Gender, Disabled and Youth, I am both shocked and disturbed by the discrepancies found in the Sexual Offences Act. I am especially concerned that authorities may not be able to charge suspects with sexual assault, sexual crimes against mentally disabled people, and certain sexual offences against children, including consensual sexual acts with children, and the sexual exploitation and sexual grooming of children. Cause for more anxiety is people charged with sexual crimes, such as the aforementioned, under these sections may move to have the charges dismissed, while those who have been convicted may apply to have their convictions overturned.

The DA urges all legislative role players, especially Members of National and Provincial Parliament to pay serious attention to this matter. We also appeal to these legislators to urgently investigate and address the problems to fill the loopholes found in the Sexual Offences Act. We must protect our vulnerable groups and their constitutional rights to create a caring society in which we all are “Better Together”.

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