The Sexual Offences Act, which extends the legal definition of rape to also include men, has been signed into law by President Thabo Mbeki.
Previously, the law recognised rape as solely being the forced penetration of the vagina. Men that were raped could only lay a charge of indecent assault, which was not legally seen as being as “severe” as rape.
The Sexual Offences Act now also includes oral and anal forced penetration by any object or body part in the definition of rape, which means that men can file charges of rape.
While this aspect of the act has been widely welcomed, other provisions have been criticised.
Controversially, the act bars any sexual behaviour between consenting teens 15 years and younger, including kissing and non-penetrative sexual activity.
It is unclear how this will be policed and what penalties teenagers may face.
Child abuse activists have also expressed disappointment that provisions to protect child witnesses were removed from the new act.
This means that children may still have to testify in the presence of defendants and, under the law, judges must continue to look on children’s testimony with “caution” on the basis that it may not be reliable.