Race, Culture, and Identity
Sexual Violence and the Limits of Laws’ Powers to Alter Behaviour: The Case of South Africa
Despite having one of the most inclusive and progressive constitutions in the world, South Africa (SA) has one of the highest rates of sexual offences globally. This article measures the extent of sexual violence, causes, developments and challenges in research, policy and practice in relation to sexual violence against women. It analyses the causes and responses to sexual violence in a largely South African context. Through different reports and literature reviews this paper will analyze the role that social traditions and norms play in the commission of sexual violence. By analyzing a prominent rape case, the author will deliberate on why law reform alone can be limiting in comprehensively dealing with sexual offences. It will also discuss how weaknesses in the governments’ responses to sexual violence have led to it being perpetrated with relative impunity. This paper will further emphasize the need for an integrated response to eradicating sexual violence. In addition to presenting a brief explanation of legislative developments relating to sexual offences, the extent to which the South African judiciary has enforced the constitutional right to freedom from violence through relevant case law is also briefly discussed. In reinforcing violence against women as a human rights violation, it will be attempted to underscore the critical links between the law, public policy and service provision to victims of gender-based violence. Finally, this article will provide recommendations in changing attitudes, beliefs and to improve services to victims of sexual violence.
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