Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal but remained a serious and pervasive problem. Minimum sentencing for rape convictions is 10 years in prison for the first offense, 15 years for the second, and 20 for the third. Under certain circumstances--such as multiple rapes, gang rapes, or the rape of a minor or a person with disabilities--conviction results in a minimum sentence of life imprisonment (25 years), unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence. Perpetrators with previous rape convictions and perpetrators aware of being HIV-positive at the time of the rape also face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, unless substantial and compelling circumstances exist to justify a lesser sentence. According to the 2010‑11 SAPS annual report, there were 56,272 reported cases of rape and indecent assault during the year and a total of 66,196 reported sexual offense cases; many of the victims were elderly women. The true incidence of rape was thought to be much higher. According to a 2008 study by SAPS and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, only 4.1 percent of reported rape cases resulted in conviction.
In most cases attackers were friends or family members of the victim, which contributed to a reluctance to press charges. A poor security climate and societal attitudes condoning sexual violence against women contributed to the problem. Studies by the Medical Research Council (MRC) estimated that only 4 to 11 percent of rape victims reported the crime to SAPS. A 2009 Medical Research Council (MRC) report found that more than 25 percent of men interviewed in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces admitted to committing at least one rape, and more than half of those persons admitted to raping more than one person. In a 2011 study conducted in Gauteng province by the MRC and Gender Links, 37.4 percent of men admitted to having committed one or more rapes.
Allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment of black and foreign female farm workers by farm owners, managers, and other farm workers were common.
The government operated six dedicated sexual offenses courts throughout the country that included designated facilities such as waiting rooms, court preparation rooms, and closed caption television rooms for victims. Although judges in rape cases generally followed statutory sentencing guidelines, women’s advocacy groups criticized judges for using criteria such as the victim’s behavior or relationship to the rapist as a basis for imposing lighter sentences. Critics also charged that support for dedicated sexual offenses courts had eroded and that some of the previously dedicated courts were hearing other types of cases. As a result, sexual offense cases took longer to resolve, and conviction rates--which were previously the highest in the country--had decreased. However, the National Prosecuting Authority’s Sexual Offenses and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA) reported that the dedicated sexual offenses courts functioned at a 38 percent higher conviction rate in comparison to nonspecialized courts during the year.
SOCA operated 45 Thuthuzela Care Centers (TCC) that specialized in rape care and streamlined a network of existing investigative, prosecutorial, medical, and psychological services in the hospitals where they were located.
Domestic violence was pervasive and included physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as harassment and stalking by former partners. The law facilitates the serving of protection orders on abusers, requires the police to take victims to a place of safety, and allows police to seize firearms at the scene and to arrest abusers without a warrant. Violating a protection order is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years, or 20 years if additional criminal charges are brought. Penalties for domestic violence include fines and sentences of between two and five years’ imprisonment.
According to NGOs, an estimated one in four women was in an abusive relationship, but few reported it. A 2009 report released by the Medical Research Council found that more than two-fifths of men interviewed in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces had been physically violent toward an intimate partner. In a 2011 report conducted by the MRC in Gauteng Province, more than 50.5 percent of men admitted to being physically violent towards women during their lifetime. TCC counselors also alleged that doctors, police officers, and judges often treated abused women poorly.
The government financed shelters for abused women, but more were needed, particularly in rural areas. The government continued to conduct domestic violence awareness campaigns. In honor of Women’s Month, the government hosted numerous events focused on empowering women in business, government, health, sports, and the arts.
Sexual Harassment: Although the law prohibits sexual harassment, it remained a widespread problem. The government left enforcement primarily to employers, with criminal prosecution a rare secondary step at the initiative of the complainant. The Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidelines to employers on how to handle workplace complaints, which allowed for remuneration of the victim’s lost compensation plus interest, additional damages, legal fees, and dismissal of the perpetrator in some circumstances. Tougher punishments could be generated for assault, which carries a range of penalties depending on the severity of the act, but only if the complainant presses charges.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right, and were able in practice, to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Contraception was widely available, and women could access it for free at government clinics. According to the Department of Health (DOH), 94 percent of women had access to prenatal care while 84 percent had access to a skilled attendant at birth, except in the poorest communities where the rate was 68 percent. According to the UN Development Program, the maternal mortality ratio was 625 per 100,000 live births. To improve postnatal care, the DOH 2010-11 Annual Report indicated 72 percent of identified maternity facilities implemented the Basic Antenatal Care Program, up from 30 percent during the previous year. During the year 27 percent of women were reviewed within six postpartum days after being discharged from a health facility. Like men, women were diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
HRW released a report called “Stop Making Excuses” on August 8 that diagnosed shortfalls in maternity care in the country and especially in the Eastern Cape Province. Its research suggested that the country’s high maternal mortality rate was due to HIV/AIDS, poor administrative and financial management, poor quality of care, and lack of accountability in the health care system. The report documented alleged cases of neglectful and abusive behavior towards maternity patients by health-care workers, including cases where neglect caused the death of a patient.
HIV/AIDS accounted for 43.7 percent of maternal mortality and 35 percent of deaths of children under age five. During the year the government extended eligibility for antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to all infants less than 12 months old, pregnant women, and persons coinfected with TB, not previously covered, at all government clinics and hospitals. To reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and HIV transmission from mother to newborn to less than 5 percent, the government provided enhanced ARV regimens and postnatal prophylaxis to pregnant women and early treatment for at-risk or HIV-infected infants. During the reporting period, transmission rates fell from 8.5 percent to 3 percent.
Discrimination: Discrimination against women remained a serious problem despite their equal rights under the law governing inheritance, divorce, and child custody. Women experienced economic discrimination in areas such as wages, extension of credit, and ownership of land. For example, township housing transfer schemes favored existing titleholders, who tended to be men.
Many rural areas were administered through traditional patrilineal authorities, such as a chief or a council of elders, who did not grant land tenure to women, a precondition for access to housing subsidies.
Women, particularly black women, typically had lower incomes and less job security than men. Most women were engaged in poorly paid domestic labor and microenterprises, which did not provide job security or benefits. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provided incentive grants to promote the development of small- and medium-size businesses and microenterprises for women, young persons, and persons with disabilities. DTI also operated the Isivande Women’s Fund to improve women’s access to formal finance in the absence of personal savings and in the face of gender-biased institutions.
According to the annual census covering 2010 conducted by the Businesswomen’s Association, the number of women in top leadership positions remained essentially constant. Women held only 21.6 percent of executive-level and 15.8 percent of director-level positions. The Commission for Employment Equity released statistics showing that 63 percent of top managers in private companies were white men, while black women comprised only 3 percent, and Coloured (a heterogeneous, mixed race ethnicity recognized by the government) and Indian women made up only 1 percent.
Female farm workers often experienced discrimination, and their access to housing often was dependent on their relationship to male farm workers. Female farm workers on maternity leave who could not obtain timely compensation via the Unemployment Insurance Fund often had no choice but to return to work shortly after giving birth, according to NGOs working with farm workers in Limpopo Province.
A number of governmental bodies, particularly the Commission for Gender Equality and the Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, and numerous NGOs monitored and promoted women’s rights.