Cabinet has approved amendments to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act to introduce stiff penalties for perpetrators of sexual violence with those convicted of rape or aggravated indecent assault now facing minimum mandatory 15-year jail terms.
Rapists will be sentenced to life imprisonment or “any definite period of imprisonment of not less than 15 years”, The Sunday Mail reported citing the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Bill. Reads the Bill:
Section 65 (“Rape”) (4) of the principal Act is amended by the repeal of paragraph (b) and the substitution of – (b) he knows that she has not consented to it or realises that there is a real risk or possibility that she may not have consented to it; shall be guilty of rape and liable to – if the crime was committed in aggravating circumstances, to life imprisonment or any definite period of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years; or if there are no aggravating circumstances, to life imprisonment or imprisonment for a period of not more than 15 years.
For the avoidance of doubt if — the crime was committed in aggravating circumstances as described in Section 65 (2), the convicted person shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or any definite period of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years; or there are no aggravating circumstances, to life imprisonment or imprisonment for a period of not more than 15 years.
Authorities initially considered much stiffer mandatory penalties of up to 60 years but settled on a mandatory sentence less severe than those imposed on murderers.
Presently, the criminal code does not provide for a mandatory sentence for rape or aggravated indecent assault, which is defined as the sexual penetration of a victim, including men, without consent.
The development comes after the release of report on rape which indicates that an average of 22 women filed rape cases daily between January 2020 and December 2021.
Police also claim more than 16 000 cases of rape were reported in the two years to December 2021, with 7 377 and 8 715 women reporting in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act considers performing sexual or anal intercourse with a female person without her consent as rape.
As part of the ongoing reform programme, the authorities are considering raising the statute of limitations — the time limit for filing charges against an alleged offender — for sexual offences to 40 years.
Section 23 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act presently sets the prescriptive period for reporting offences such as rape at 20 years.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care chairperson, Dr Ruth Labode, welcomed the proposed amendments. She said:
It is a welcome move, but we need to ensure that girls can access contraceptives, and we must not allow a nine-year-old to carry a pregnancy to full term. Such pregnancies must be terminated.
The Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum acting director (programmes development and fundraising manager), Dr Thando Makubaza, said deterrent penalties will send a clear message to would-be offenders.
Ten years is the minimum mandatory sentence for rape in the SADC region.