For every 100 cases of child rape in South Africa, only four rapists are convicted and imprisoned. And for rape cases in adults the statistics are even worse, with only 3.2% of rapists eventually ending up in jail. This is according to a recent study conducted in the Gauteng province. The research article was published in the journal for the Public Library of Science, PLoS Medicine.
The study also shows that for every case of child rape opened with the SAPS, only 57.2% of suspects are ever arrested or asked to appear in court, and in adult rape cases, the incidence decreases to 45.2%. This results in 42.8% and 54.8% respectively of suspected rapists walking away from the crime without ever being as much as charged.
Earlier research has shown that post-rape services generally receive few resources, service providers often lack specific training for and confidence in examining victims and interpreting their finding for the courts, and the health needs of victims often remain unmet.
Medical evidence used in rape cases are the following: victim observation at the time of the medical examination (physical, emotional states and sobriety); observation of injuries on the body, particularly in the anogenital area; and results of analysis of specimens taken for DNA.
“South Africa has an especially high prevalence of rape, and as such, it is a particularly important context in which to conduct research on health sector responses to rape,” reads the study.
For the study 2,068 rape and attempted rape dockets from 70 police stations in Gauteng in 2003 were anlaysed. The researchers were studying the link between medico-legal findings and whether the trail started and the accused were found guilty.
They found that medical examinations were conducted in at least 85% of cases. Documented injuries were not associated with arrest, but they were associated with children’s cases going to trail. In adult cases a conviction was more likely if they were documented injuries, whether nongenital injuries alone, or both nongenital and ano-genital injuries. DNA was not associated with case outcome.
Other noteworthy findings from the study include:
- Trial was commenced in only 27% of adult and 38% of child cases.
- Forensic evidence kits were completed more often in adults than children – 91% versus 63%. However, completed kits were often not sent to the laboratory for analysis, and in 71.5% of cases that were prosecuted, the suspect’s blood was never drawn. And in cases where blood was drawn, reports on DNA were rarely available for the courts.
The research was conducted by Rachel Jewkes of the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Gender and Health Research Unit and Wits University’s School of Public Health, Nicola Christofides from Wits’ School of Public Health, Lisa Vetten from the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, Romi Sigsworth from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconcilaition, and Lizle Loots, also from the MRC’s Gender and Health Research Unit. – (Wilma Stassen, Health24, October 2009)
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