Shock at moves to 'spread resources' for sexual offences courts

Johannesburg – The justice department's intention to reduce resources to sexual offences courts is shocking, organisations campaigning against gender violence said on Thursday.

“We were deeply disappointed to learn about this move,” Kathleen Dey, national director of Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust said.

Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery made the announcement during a speech at the unveiling of the Thembalethu Sexual Offences Court in George on Monday.

The organisations said Jeffery announced that the department had finalised a partnership with Unicef to “develop a less resourced and less costly sexual offences courts model”.

Jeffery told News24 on Thursday it was not a matter of reducing resources.

“It is a matter of resources being spread further. What we are doing with Unicef is to see if we can provide facilities at a cheaper cost to ensure that we have more sexual offences courts."

Dey said activists and civil society organisations in the sector were not consulted about the aims behind this partnership.

Sanja Bornman, of Lawyers for Human Rights’ gender equality programme, said any plan to reduce resources to sexual offences courts undermined the reason for bringing them back. A decision had been made to reintroduce these courts based on recommendations by a task team and civil society backed the idea.

“It would be unacceptable for the state to now go half-way on implementation. They knew what it would cost when the decision was made,” Bornman said.

The organisations said sexual offences courts were scrapped from the South African criminal justice system, despite their success, in or around 2008.

Due to civil society demand and escalating sexual violence against women and children, the specialised courts were reintroduced by an act of Parliament which the president signed in January 2014.

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