Following the recent controversial Constitutional Court ruling on male rape, parliament has voted in favour of new legislation defining rape as applicable to both men and women.
On Tuesday, after a ten year delay, South Africa’s National Assembly, with the support of all political parties, finally voted the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill towards becoming law.
The bill redefines rape as non-consensual penetration of any orifice regardless of gender.
Previously, South African law defined rape solely as non-consensual penetration of the vagina. Male rape could only be prosecuted in the courts under the category of ‘indecent assault.’
The move comes shortly after the Constitutional Court earlier this month refused to extend the definition of rape to men, although it did extend the meaning to include non-consensual anal penetration of a woman.
At the time, the court said that the issue of gender was not a constitutional matter but should be decided by the legislature. The ruling was met with outrage by activists.
The Sexual Offences Amendment Bill now defines rape as any non-consensual penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth, regardless of the gender of the victim or perpetrator. It also includes any object used in the penetration – whether it be a penis, inanimate object or even animal genitalia.
The bill also allows for the creation of a registry of sexual offenders against children and entitles victims of sexual offences to be given anti-HIV drugs by the state at no charge.
The National Working Group on Sexual Offences – a network of activists groups including the AIDS Law Project, Childline SA and OUT LGBT Well-being – has issued a statement welcoming Parliament’s decision to breathe new life into the Sexual Offences Bill.
“It’s good news that the Bill is moving again,” said Samantha Waterhouse of Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN) “but there’s still some way to go before the Bill becomes law.”
The Bill must still be passed by the National Council of Provinces before it can be finally signed into law by president Mbeki.