28 January 2013

South Africa: Justice Dept Focuses On Rooting Out Gender-Based Crimes

Pretoria — South Africa must address gender inequalities which make women more vulnerable to sexual and gender-based crimes, Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister Andries Nel says.

"We must pool our efforts as an international community, as national governments, as civil society and as individual actors," Nel said at the opening of a training course on Investigating Cases of Sexual and Gender-based Violence as International Crimes in Pretoria at the weekend.

The event was organised by Justice Rapid Response, UN Women, and the Institute for International Criminal Investigations.

"South Africa, having first-hand experience of the impact of apartheid as a crime against humanity, continues to emphasise the importance of the fight against impunity and the reciprocal relationship between justice and accountability, and sustainable peace and security," Nel said.

Authorities should encourage the promotion of accountability for gender-based crimes and crimes against children.

Nel said the inclusion of sexual violence in the Rome Statute was evidence that these crimes formed part of the atrocities that were of gravest concern to the international community as a whole.

"We are committed to fighting all forms sexual and gender-based violence, including against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people on the basis of their sexual orientation."

South Africa further condemned hate crimes, including so-called "corrective rape". Gender-based violence and hate crimes were a direct assault on both the right to life and human dignity.

Last week, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development requested the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate a private school in Bloemfontein that makes so-called "conversion therapy" a precondition for lesbian and gay students to continue their studies.

Nel said the notion that a person's sexual orientation could be changed at will, or by compulsion, fed the very same homophobic attitudes that encouraged the criminal and abhorrent practice of "corrective rape".

"... The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the National Prosecuting Authority continue to prioritise the prosecution of sexual offences and gender based violence," he said.

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