Communications Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana has called for a review of the judicial system to ensure that the system protects the most vulnerable in society.
“I believe it is possible to have a judicial system that enables a defendant to have the evidence tested, rather than face a defence counsel, which can be humiliating. A more controlled way is for the judge to conduct the examination with counsel conferring with the judge beforehand,” Kekana said.
Kekana said that if there is one thing the Omotoso trial has brought to the fray, is the manner in which women are trialled, despite being complainants.
The Deputy Minister said the court system structures and processes, and the people working within it, inadvertently re-victimise and re-traumatise survivors seeking help.
She said she will recommend at the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Summit, which will take place next week, that the burden of proof be shifted so that it lies with perpetrators not survivors.
“I do not think there is any debate that women making rape complaints find it overwhelming, and women who are raped are not subject themselves to have their credibility and character assassinated in the witness box. But, so long as a woman cannot make a rape accusation without her integrity being called into question that she has exaggerated or lied in making her claim, the barrier remains,” Kekana said.
Kekana was speaking at the Mama Albertina Sisulu Women Dialogue held at Tshwane University of Technology in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.
The dialogue reflected on the life and times of struggle heroine, Mama Albertina Sisulu.
More needs to be done to make women feel safe
Kekana said that while discussions are great [and] help in formulating and testing ideas, she stressed that “discussions alone do not solve societal problems”.
“We need to be practical and assess the effects of our actions. Despite, the heroic actions of Mama Sisulu and her ilk, a lot of work needs to be carried forward. We need to carry the baton she has left and ensure that we move forwards not backwards.
“Moving forward requires us to fight patriarchy and misogyny. We need to start calling things as they are. The blatant truth is that women are not safe everywhere in the church, on campus, in the workplace, and at home,” Kekana said.
Protect survivors from secondary victimisation
Meanwhile, Kekana urged universities and colleges to take accusations of sexual exploiting and violence against women seriously, and ensure that the allegations are dealt with promptly and survivors are protected from secondary victimisation.