Make corrective rape a hate crime, says HRC

2011-01-16 00:00
Erna van Wyk
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) says corrective rape should be ­declared a hate crime as it is “carried out on the basis of discrimination”.

However, HRC commissioner Pregs Govender says hate crimes are ­currently not formally recognised in South African law.

Both the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Universal ­Periodic Review have recommended that South Africa adopt measures to deal with hate crimes.

“The reason for formally recognising hate crimes is to express the public outrage and condemnation of the crimes. A hate crime is viewed as a serious type of crime,” she says.

Police figures show that more than 68?000 sexual offences were reported in 2009/10, but less than 15% of these resulted in convictions.

However, there are no statistics for the frequency of corrective rape, apart from a few cases that have made headlines in the past three years.

Govender says declaring a crime a hate crime could be used as an ­aggravating factor in sentencing.

“While South Africa is in the process of developing hate crimes legislation and determining within that process if crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation will be recognised, more could be done to train and sensitise authorities on how to deal with this particular crime and to ensure that ­victims receive the necessary support,” Govender says.

To create such legislation would be a lengthy process, according to Lisa ­Vetten, policy analyst at the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre.

She says even though there is no such legislation, one of the ways to ­ensure that the mandatory minimum sentence for corrective rape is 25 years’ imprisonment is to take a case of ­corrective rape to court as a test case and then in future other cases could be referred back to it.