Twenty-six organisations working with adult and child survivors of sexual violence have come together to implement the Shukumisa Campaign, a national initiative calling the state to account for its responses to survivors of sexual violence.

The campaign kicked off on Tuesday with an innovative monitoring strategy involving visits to police stations, courts and hospitals to evaluate their facilities for rape survivors. This is the first time such systematic monitoring of policy implementation has been undertaken.

“We’ve chosen to start our campaign during the 16 Days of Activism because we wanted an alternative to the lunches, launches and passing of torches that currently comprise the 16 Days. We want to know if promises made by the health and criminal justice systems to improve the treatment of rape survivors are being kept,” said Lisa Vetten of the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre.

“South Africa is hailed internationally for its policies and laws addressing violence against women. But weak implementation of these interventions has left thousands of survivors of sexual offences without justice and redress. The Shukumisa Campaign plans to shake all that up,” added Melanie Judge from OUT LGBT Well-being.

Cherith Sanger of the Women’s Legal Centre points out that the failure to implement policy effectively results in inadequate investigations by the SAPS, poor medical examinations, secondary victimisation of survivors and delays in the finalisation of trials – all of which leave thousands of survivors and their families distrustful of the criminal justice system.

“A system that leaves perpetrators to walk away scot free can only encourage a culture of impunity. This cannot be acceptable in a country like ours where rape is so prevalent,” she said.

For the next 18 months, campaign partners will educate survivors, the public and state officials about rape survivors’ constitutional and legal rights and the duties of the state in this regard.

“We will work towards changing social perceptions of sexual violence and improving the implementation of related laws and policies. We will help make the criminal justice system accessible to survivors so that they may obtain justice and redress. In this way we hope to bring to an end rape survivors’ re-victimisation by the very institutions intended to promote, protect and uphold their rights,” concluded a statement from the campaign.

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