Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal but remained a serious and pervasive problem. The minimum sentence for rape is 10 years in prison for the first offense, 15 years for the second, and 20 for the third. Under certain circumstances, such as multiple rapes, gang rapes, or the rape of a minor or a person with disabilities, conviction results in a minimum sentence of life imprisonment (25 years), unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence. Perpetrators with previous rape convictions and perpetrators aware of being HIV positive at the time of the rape also face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence.
On January 19, a man raped a nine-year-old girl from the town of Delft, Western Cape Province, on the side of a highway, set her on fire, and left her for dead. A passerby found her alive and took her to a hospital, where she recounted that her attacker laughed as he doused her with gasoline. On March 18, the victim died in the hospital. Police arrested her attacker and charged him with multiple counts, but prosecutors withdrew the charges when the girl died, as they predicated the case on her testimony. Prosecutors said they would recharge the suspect once additional forensic evidence was processed, but had not filed charges at year’s end. Suspects sometimes burned rape victims to destroy forensic evidence.
According to the 2012-13 SAPS annual report, 197,877 reported crimes were committed against women; SAPS did not provide a gender breakdown in the 2013-14 report. SAPS recorded a decrease in total sexual crimes (perpetrated against men and women), with 62,649 cases reported compared with 66,387 cases in the previous year.
A 2009 Medical Research Council (MRC) report stated that more than 25 percent of men interviewed in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces admitted committing at least one rape, and more than half of those persons admitted raping more than one person. In a 2011 study conducted in Gauteng Province by the MRC and Gender Links, 37.4 percent of men admitted to having committed one or more rapes, and 25 percent of women admitted being a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime.
In most cases attackers were acquaintances or family members of the victim, which contributed to a reluctance to press charges, as did a poor security climate and societal attitudes. According to the 2013-14 NPA annual report, the conviction rate for sexual offense crimes was 67.1 percent, although watchdog groups claimed the rate was lower because it did not include the many credible cases that never made it to trial. Prosecutors chose not to prosecute many cases with insufficient evidence, and many watchdog groups estimated that the real conviction rate in rape cases was 4 percent. Poor police training, insufficient forensic lab capacity, a lack of trauma counseling for victim witnesses, and overburdened courts contributed to the low conviction rate. The NPA did not track the length of time required to bring cases to trial, but, according to media reports, it could take between six months and three years for a rape case, depending on the complexity and the plea of the accused.
The Department of Justice operated 19 dedicated sexual-offense courts throughout the country. Sexual-offense courts included facilities such as private waiting rooms, court preparation rooms, and closed circuit television rooms for victims, all in an attempt to provide additional privacy and prevent secondary victimization. Although judges in rape cases generally followed statutory sentencing guidelines, women’s advocacy groups criticized judges for using criteria such as the victim’s behavior or relationship to the rapist as a basis for imposing lighter sentences. According to the 2013-14 annual report of the NPA’s Sexual Offenses and Community Affairs Unit, dedicated sexual-offense courts recorded a 65.9 percent conviction rate; 49.2 percent of cases were referred for prosecution.
The government operated 51 rape centers, or TCCs (see section 1.e.). All TCCs were located at hospitals, either within the hospital or in a mobile unit on hospital grounds. Of rape cases brought to TCCs, 75 percent went to trial and were terminated--either by conviction or by acquittal--within nine months from the date a victim reported the case.
Domestic violence was pervasive and included physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as harassment and stalking. The government prosecuted domestic violence cases under laws governing rape, indecent assault, damage to property, and violating a protection order. The law facilitates protection orders against abusive individuals, requires police to take victims to a place of safety, and allows police to seize firearms at the scene and to arrest abusers without a warrant. The law requires police to protect victims from domestic violence, but police commanders did not always hold officers accountable. Violating a protection order is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years, or up to 20 years if prosecutors bring additional criminal charges. Penalties for domestic violence include fines and sentences of between two and five years’ imprisonment.
According to NGOs an estimated 25 percent of women were in abusive relationships, but few reported it. A 2009 MRC report stated more than two-fifths of men interviewed in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces had been physically violent toward an intimate partner. According to the 2011 report conducted by the MRC in Gauteng Province, 51 percent of women experienced some form of violence (economic, physical, sexual, or emotional) in their lifetime, and 78 percent of men admitted to perpetrating some form of violence against women. TCC counselors also alleged that doctors, police officers, and judges often treated abused women poorly.
The government financed shelters and rape support centers for abused women, but more were needed, particularly in rural areas. The government continued to conduct rape and domestic violence awareness campaigns. In honor of Women’s Month, the government hosted numerous events focused on empowering women in business, government, health, sports, and the arts. During the internationally observed 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, the government hosted a number of roundtable discussions.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C, but girls in isolated zones in Venda communities in the northeast were subjected to the practice.
Sexual Harassment: Although the law prohibits sexual harassment, it remained a widespread problem. The government left enforcement primarily to employers, with criminal prosecution a rare secondary step at the initiative of the complainant. The Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidelines to employers on how to handle workplace complaints, which allow for remuneration of the victim’s lost compensation plus interest, additional damages, legal fees, and dismissal of the perpetrator in some circumstances. Tougher punishments are imposed for assault, which carries a range of penalties depending on the severity of the act but requires the complainant to press charges.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so. They have the right to attain the highest standard of reproductive health free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Contraception was widely available and free at government clinics. Emergency health care was available for the treatment of complications arising from abortion.
According to the Department of Health, the antenatal care coverage rate was 98.5 percent. According to the country’s 2010 Millennium Development Goal Report posted by the UN Development Program, the maternal mortality ratio was 269 per 100,000 live births. The government and numerous international organizations continued efforts to reduce the maternal mortality rate through a variety of pilot projects. Primary challenges included low awareness among mothers of available antenatal care, the high HIV/AIDS rate, poor administrative and financial management, poor quality of care, and lack of accountability in the health-care system.
Discrimination: Discrimination against women remained a serious problem despite legal equality in inheritance, divorce, and child custody matters. Women experienced economic discrimination in wages (see section 7.d.), extension of credit, and ownership of land.
Traditional patrilineal authorities, such as a chief or a council of elders, administered many rural areas. Some traditional authorities refused to grant land tenure to women, a precondition for access to housing subsidies.
The Employment Equity Act, which aims to promote equality in the workplace, does not expressly prohibit unequal pay for work of equal value, but it does prohibit discriminatory practices, including unequal pay and separate pension funds for different groups in a company (see section 7.d.).
Women, particularly black women, typically had lower incomes and less job security than men. Many women were engaged in poorly paid domestic labor and microenterprises, which did not provide job security or benefits. The Department of Trade and Industry provided incentive grants to promote the development of small and medium-size businesses and microenterprises for women, young persons, and persons with disabilities. The department also operated the Isivande Women’s Fund to improve women’s access to formal finance.
According to the 2013-14 Employment Equity Report (EER) produced by the Commission for Employment Equity at the DOL, women held only 20.6 percent of top-level management positions and 29.9 percent of senior management positions, rates significantly lower than the government-mandated target of 44.4 percent management positions filled by women. The EER statistics showed 52.3 percent of top managers in private companies were white men, while black women constituted only 6.3 percent, and coloured (a heterogeneous, mixed-race ethnicity recognized by the government) and Indian women made up only 1.6 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively. The percentage of women in top management positions continued to increase but “at a snail’s pace,” according to the EER.
Female farm workers often experienced discrimination, and their access to housing frequently depended on their relationship to male farm workers. Female farm workers on maternity leave who could not obtain timely compensation through the Unemployment Insurance Fund often had to return to work shortly after giving birth, according to NGOs working with farm workers in Limpopo Province.
A number of government bodies, particularly the Commission for Gender Equality, the EER, and the minister of women in the Presidency, monitored and promoted women’s rights, as did numerous NGOs.