South Africa now has vital laws for sex offences courts

South African laws and regulations outlining the standards for sex offences courts were published on 7 Feb 2020 and implemented on 31 Jan 2020, as activists welcomed the government’s move forward after years of leaving vital legislation on hold. These courts can now bring much-needed relief and justice to victims of gender-based violence. The new laws, which President Ramaphosa signed into effect, enable these courts to have facilities and measures in place to provide services that better protect survivors, improve the quality of prosecutions and evidence given in sex offence cases, and reduce secondary trauma for victims. The legal amendments to the Act have been on hold for years. On 7 Feb, both the Amendment Act and the regulations were published, a pivotal day for South Africa.

Although South Africa has one of the highest rates of reported sexual offences worldwide, it also has a criminal justice system that innovatively addresses this. One example is the sexual offences courts. These are specialised courts where survivors get support services, and specialists in the field prosecute cases. These courts have been opened around SA but haven’t had a legal framework until now, so the services they provide are not consistent. Also, the criteria for a court to be a sexual offences court, haven’t been clear until now. President Ramaphosa has signed legislation into law to fix this. Jeanne Bodenstein, from Rape Crisis’ Rape Survivor Justice Campaign, said this “.. is a strong sign of Ramaphosa’s commitment to a stronger criminal justice system; the rollout of sexual offences courts and specialised forensic units promises a ray of hope for survivors of gender-based violence”. Get the full story at

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