As Women’s Month celebrations slowly draw to an end, the latest South African Police Services’ family violence, child protection and sexual offences (FCS) unit report delivered to Parliament on Wednesday paints a grim picture of the safety of women in the country.
The report reveals that between 2016/17 and 2017/18 murders committed against women skyrocketed across all nine provinces in South Africa.
Limpopo recorded the greatest increase of murders committed against women with a 52.1% upsurge followed by the Free State with a 28.7% rise, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng recorded a 15.5% and 10.5% increase respectively.
The report was delivered to Parliament’s portfolio committee on police by Major General Norman Sekhukhune, the head of police crime research and statistics.
Briefing members of Parliament on these crimes against women and children, Sekhukhune also revealed that “7 355 women were raped in Gauteng between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018” which represents a 8.4% increase from the previous FCS unit report.
Cases of rape also went up by 6.5% in KwaZulu-Natal, where 4 009 women reported being raped.
Police Minister Bheki Cele leading the response to questions from MPs said the challenge for the SAPS in investigating abuse against women and children was the proximity of the abusers to the victims of sexual offences.
“Police also need to be trained on how to deal with reports of abuse to avoid scenarios where police officers tell complainants to resolve abuse through negotiations. It might also be a good idea to have female officers assisting victims at the front desk,” suggested Cele.
The police minister acknowledged that the rise in serious offences against women and children was a worrying reality but said that the SAPS was making inroads in arresting and prosecuting the culprits.
“Over 600 offenders were sentenced to life in the past financial year for sexual offences,” said Cele.
The FCS unit report also revealed that 1 543 sentences of between one and nine years were handed down, while 3 011 sentences of between 10 and 19 years were handed down. These numbers include accused persons with multiple sentences.
Another 137 sentences of 20 years or more were handed down to 111 accused persons.
FCS national head, Major General Linda Bafana told City Press that even though this year’s Women’s Month was welcomed with shocking news of the death of a young rape victim — 23-year-old Rhodes student Khensani Maseko who took her own life earlier this month — police were vigorously working towards fortifying efforts of minimizing the scourge of crime against women and children.
“The focal points of the FCS is to secure the rights and dignity of all victims of sexual offences, and create awareness about gender based violence. The mission is to secure harsher sentences that serve as a deterrent to others who might have an inclination to commit similar crimes,” said Bafana.
The FCS boss was adamant that strides were being made by the SAPS in their efforts of defending the weak and vulnerable against tormentors.
“In the first quarter of this financial year 2018/19, 146 life imprisonment [sentences] were meted out to 80 accused. They include Raul Balele of Brits, North West and Zacharia Tlhokwe of Warrenton, Northern Cape.
“Balele is currently serving eight life sentences after he was found guilty of raping three victims between the ages nine and 11. Tlhokwe is serving six life sentences for raping a 14 year old girl,” said Bafana.
Over the same period, 2 221 suspects were arrested and Bafana added that “these and many achievements in the fight against crime were not attained without the aid of community involvement”.
Bafana urged the public to speak out when they do have information of wrong doing.