Hostility towards rape survivors

Rape Survivors Justice Campaign members picket in front of Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court. PHOTO: mzwanele mkalipi
Rape Survivors Justice Campaign members picket in front of Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court. PHOTO: mzwanele mkalipi

Members of the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign (RSJC) made their presence felt when they picketed outside the Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 10 December.

Among other things, the picketers demanded a special court for survivors of sexual offences as well as a mobile unit to serve survivors. They also demanded courts should have separate entrances, toilets and separate waiting rooms.

According to the survivors most rape victims break down in court because they come face to face with offenders in close proximity. They also share similar resources.

Mandisa Mbotshelwa of RSJC said Khayelitsha experienced a lot of rape cases, with victims battling to get justice.

“Survivors are easily exposed to the perpetrators as they enter through the same entrance. They are easily teased and laughed at by perpetrators’ friends while they struggle to get justice for their trauma,” she said.

Mbotshelwa said survivors have been failed by the government, and the courts were their last resort to seek justice. “If a rape survivor easily breaks down, that can lead to the perpetrators getting away with their actions,” she said. “There’s no support, no sensitivity in our courts, and we need well trained personnel to deal with rape matters.”

Amanda Fuzile (21), who also participated in the picket, said it was vital for rape survivors not to meet perpetrators. “They have already been exposed to their abuse,” she said, “and they don’t need to have that in court as well. Rape survivors need counselling so they can be emotionally ready when they are in court.”

Court Manager Velile Yayi said picketers had genuine concerns, and there was commitment from the government to address them.

“There have been a lot of challenges along the way, but we have made a lot of progress. Come February next year we want to see much further progress on these issues,” said Yayi.

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