Decline in sexual offences nothing to celebrate

Decline in sexual offences nothing to celebrate

The amount of rapes reported in South Africa is more than double the country's murder rate.

Anti-rape protest
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A total of 109 people are raped every day in South Africa - and that is only the ones who have reported the crime. 

There has been a 4% decline in the number of sexual offences reported. 

A decline should not be seen as a victory in the fight against gender-based violence. If anything, such statistics should cause alarm bells to ring.

The police released the annual crime statistics in Parliament on Tuesday. 

Presenting the statistics, Norman Sekhukhune, the head of crime research and statistics at the SA Police Service, says 39 828 counts of rape were reported during the 2016/17 financial year - down from 41 503 in 2015/16.

The number of rapes reported is more than double the murder rate in South Africa - where 19 000 murders were reported during the same period. 

Sekhukhune says most of the rapes were reported to have happened at the women's homes. 


A decline in the number of sexual offences reported is not necessarily an indication that the crime is not happening, but rather an indication that women have no faith in the justice system.

They have little faith in the system to protect them when they report being raped. 

There is a gross-underreporting of sexual offences in South Africa. 

The Medical Research Council has used a 1 in 13 ratio of women who report their rape or sexual assault to police.

Essentially, these stats are therefore somewhat of a guesstimate due to underreporting.

At Rape Crisis's Western Cape facilities, only half of the about 6000 people who utilise their range of services say they have reported their rape or sexual assault to police. 

Meanwhile, in Gauteng and the North West, there's been an increase in the number of sexual offences reported. 

What is needed is a supportive environment than encourages women to report the crime - an environment in which a women's voice is not silenced.

Police stations can be a harrowing place to visit on a normal day - a hostile environment. To walk into such an environment to report a sexual offence, I can only imagine, can be debilitating.

The design of our police stations need to better accommodate women.

Better investigation

The Institute for Security Studies says police urgently need to improve their capability to investigate crime, gather evidence and arrest the perpetrators. 

"This requires police to earn the trust of communities and reverse a decline in trust levels, as indicated by the most recent Victims of Crime Survey (VoCS)." 

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