ADVICE FOR WOMEN: Your rights when a male officer pulls you off the road

With the end-of-year holiday season here and many motorists planning to take road trips across the country, it is important that women be made aware of their rights when male officers approach them on the roads. 

The threat of a violation by an officer of the law can clearly be seen in the Independent Police Investigative Directorate's (IPID) 2017/18 annual report which recorded 105 incidents of sexual assault by a police officer and nine incidents of sexual assault by an officer while in police custody.

IPID derives its mandate from Section 206 (6) of the Constitution which is that of ensuring effective independent oversight of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Municipal Police Services (MPS).

IPID 2017/18 STATS

According to the KwaZulu-Natal traffic department, there are several things to note when a woman has to be searched or arrested. 

"In the case that a woman has to be searched or arrested, then a woman officer needs to do the body search.

"If there is no female officer present, that does not warrant the male officer a right to proceed with the search," acting station commander Nalini Singh emphasised at a roadblock in Harrismith, Free State, in early December.

READ:#GBVSummit: 'We hear you and we will not fail you' – Ramaphosa tells delegates

There have been several cases this year of alleged police attacks on women.

In October, a police constable appeared in the Ulundi Magistrate's Court in KwaZulu-Natal. He was accused of raping his 25-year-old ex-girlfriend in the back of his police van.

ALSO READ: Police officer accused of raping ex-girlfriend in police van

In August, a 42-year-old constable was accused of raping a 22-year-old woman he arrested for drinking in public.

READ: Bloemfontein cop arrested for alleged rape of woman arrested for public drinking

In light of the vulnerability of women and children in all spheres of South African society, as well as at the hands of authorities that should be proving protection, here is what women travelling on national roads should remember in terms of their rights:

  • The absence of a female officer of the law does not mean that you may be let go from the scene. A female officer must instead be called to the site, according to authorities. "The male officer must ask for assistance from any other female officer that is around the area to assist in the body search. They are not allowed to [search women]," Singh explained.
  • If safety is compromised, the female motorist can remain in the vehicle until a female officer arrives. "If safety is compromised in any way when the female officer comes to the scene, if you are arrested or committed an offence, that is when you will report the incident," she said.
  • An officer of the law is always expected to keep an appointment card on their person as a form of verification while on duty. "It is up to you as an individual to report the case to the police station. It is easy to verify an officer through an appointment card. If the officer evades that, you can take the van's vehicle registration number," she said.

ALSO READ: Crime against women in South Africa - Statistics South Africa

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