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SANDF sexual abuse exposé triggers call for transparent investigations into alleged perpetrators 

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Amnesty International has come out in condemnation of the information revealed in a recent report by the Mail & Guardian, demanding that the relevant authorities “ensure transparency around the handling of investigations relating to ‘rampant’ sexual abuse and exploitation within the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).”

According to the article, the Mail & Guardian “has established that there are at least 41 sexual-related cases that have been reported in just the past 18 months” and Shenilla Mohamed, the executive director at Amnesty International SA, argues that this is an unacceptable situation and indicated that the NGO would engage the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on the matter.

“This isn’t a new story but the fact that the report has been leaked points to some form of cover up from within the SANDF and that’s really worrying…The problem is that it’s not just about the internal sexual exploitation, it’s also what they [alleged SANDF perpetrators] do when they are out representing the country,” said Mohamed.

Mail & Guardian revealed that “internal documents show [SANDF] soldiers are sexually assaulting people inside the army and while on peacekeeping operations.”

“According to a recent SANDF internal report, leaked to the M&G, at least 41 members of the army were charged with sexual-related offences, ranging from rape and assault to harassment and crimen injuria. Of those cases, 26 have been finalised, with 13 guilty verdicts and 11 acquittals.

Sexual assault against women in the armed forces is so rampant that in August last year the SANDF held a conference at Air Force Base Swartkop to deal with the reports of sexual assaults in barracks and elsewhere. The report that emerged from the conference painted a bleak picture of how women were being sexually victimised by their colleagues and commanders.” – reads an extract from the exposé

Mohamed says that violence against women seems to be institutionalised throughout the country and that from their assessment as an NGO it’s mostly women affected by sexual abuse in the defence force.

Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into the allegations to be public and transparent to bring perpetrators to account.

“There’s a lot of work that has to be done around the prevention of sexual violence against women,” said Mohamed.


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