The Sixteen Days of Activism campaign, which runs annually between November 25th and December 10th, has provided the platform for government and civil society to collectively sound the alarm against the abuse of women and children.
Activists use the campaign’s prominence to lobby for top level political commitment while at the same time mobilising grassroots awareness and behaviour change in the area of gender based violence.
The campaign is a global one, with the 25th of November bookmarked as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the 10th of December recognised as International Human Rights Day.
While it has been reported that South Africa’s rape numbers are problematically high; statistics of this particular crime are questionable. This is a direct consequence of the nature of the crime which is usually committed by an acquaintance. Rape survivor support groups say it is not uncommon for survivors to sabotage the legal process because of fatigue of the process and having to relive the experience through telling the story of what happened. Sometimes survivors are intimidated. Others are motivated to stay away from the courts because they feel ashamed.
As a result many incidents of rape are unreported to police. This means that the actual incidence of rape is difficult to quantify accurately.
Thuthuzela Care Centres, which operate in public hospitals and are staffed by prosecutors, social workers, investigating officers, magistrates, health professionals, NGOs and police, provide a one-stop shop for survivors of sexual abuse, including rape.
Adv. Pierre Smith, the acting head of the sexual offences community affairs unit of the NPA which manages the centres, confirms that the matters the centre deals with are “predominantly rape, then sexual assault and some cases of domestic violence.”
He adds that there has been an upward trend of rape cases reported to the centres since 2008; although he points out at that stage only 17 Thuthuzela centres were running nationwide as compared to the 51 centres in existence now.
For the 2011/2012 financial year, a collective 28 557 matters of rape and sexual assault were reported to Thuthuzela centres. 57% were child complainants (under the age of 18 years) and 43% were adult complainants (above 18 years).