Voice of the Cape

From the news desk

Public sex offender list not the silver bullet against sexual violence

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Talks of publicising a national sexual offenders registry by the president of South Africa have been met with both excitement and ambivalence. While femicide and sexual violence have been acknowledged by the South African government as serious issues in the country, concerns remain that the release of a public registry would spark acts of mob justice and vigilantism. With that said, the list would also need to be regularly maintained and updated if it were to be of any use.

“A list like that will only be of any use if it’s up to date,” said founder of the Tears Foundation, Mara Glennie.

“Let’s look at the current situation…we are in arrears with our rape kits where some places don’t have them to give out and we are in arrears with our rape kits being tested in laboratories. So, what good is a list – even if the list is kept up to date?”
Glennie says that the one positive that could come out of the public registry would be increased community participation, communication and crime prevention.

“If they work and are properly enforced, a community becomes involved in the situation and that is very important. But at this stage, I have to say with great sadness that we are onlookers, spectators, pointing fingers and blaming the women. For it to be successful we all have to be participants… If a list is out in an area, school principals have to take action and staff must be checked to ensure that they are not on the list. I’m afraid we don’t even do the basic things like that in our country. So while the list is extremely laudable, I’m afraid that it won’t make any difference.”

With all things considered, according to Glennie, it seems that while the public list would be a good idea, it is not the silver bullet that would solve South Africa’s rape and femicide crisis.

“The opening of the register is a very important step in acknowledging that offenders play a very large role in our lives. However, let’s look at the recent kidnappings that have happened right across the country – not one of them [the perpetrators] is a registered offender.”

“So while it’s a much needed thing and it should be done, it’s not going to stop rape and abuse.”

South Africa is often praised for its constitution and progressive legislation and Glennie seems to share that view. She has hope that things will improve with the ever-increasing public action against the violence that is being cruelly inflicted on the women and children of the country.

“I think we are a country with the best laws in the world and with the will of all the men and women in our country, which it seems we are garnering now, we can make a real difference,” she said optimistically.

“Don’t feel despondent about the statistics – look at where you can make a difference in your community and decide today – ‘I will make a difference’.”

VOC


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