South Africa: Arms of State Must Work Together to Fight GBV

Addressing South Africa's crisis of gender-based violence and sexual offences requires an integrated approach by all key stakeholders, says Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

He made the remark while addressing the Judicial Accountability Session in Braamfontein on Thursday.

During his address, the Chief Justice called for a focused and well-trained unit of investigating officers, who will deal only or primarily with sexual offences and gender-based violence.

Bemoaning the lack of synergy in the justice and criminal justice systems, he said the desperate situation demands that the arms of State now work together in a more deliberate and intentional way.

"Otherwise nothing much will ever change. Panic responses or knee-jerk reactions to these matters, as if they are new, would not help. The need for an integrated approach cannot, therefore, be overemphasised," he said.

He said the imposition of firm sentences is one of the major deterrent factors.

"But, our engagement with jurisdictions like Germany, France, the Netherlands and Norway revealed that certainty or predictability of detection, prosecution and conviction, if the evidence allows, is the most effective deterrence.

"Re-orientation of all front-desk or charge office functionaries to sensitise them to the better and more appropriate handling of these cases [is needed]. Dedicated officers and Magistrates must be available at all times to also receive complaints as a back-up mechanisms, as is done by the French police.

"Prosecutors that are just as specially equipped to handle these cases with the expertise, sensitivity, professionalism and special competence they deserve."

Mogoeng also used his speech to call for the revitilisation of Thuthuzela Care Centres and rendering them even more fit for purpose.

He said the all-round resourcing of key players and facilities meant to handle gender-based violence or sexual offences matters should also be prioritised.

The Chief Justice said a fresh, sensitive and more responsive approach to domestic violence matters, including special training, must be urgently looked into.

All of these measures, he said, should be an integral part of making the most of the Sexual Offences Courts.

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