n Acta Juridica - 'A wall of words' : redefining the offence of rape in South African law : general principles of criminal liability and specific offences

Volume 2003, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1346
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2088



Nine years into South Africa's democratic dispensation, the levels of violence against women, particularly sexual violence, remain alarmingly high. The frequency, extent and nature of sexual violence in South Africa have gained international attention over the past years. Although it is a crime that affects all South Africans, women are far more likely to be the victims, and evidence suggests that the already unacceptably high rate of sexual assault continues to increase. Increasingly, too, the link is being drawn between women's sexual victimisation and their extreme vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.

Against this background, the recent publication of the South African Law Commission's Report on Sexual Offences is significant. This report, which includes a draft Sexual Offences Bill, represents the conclusion of the commission's comprehensive investigation into sexual offences against children and adults. It recommends a number of incisive amendments to existing law, ranging from the substantive definitions of criminal offences to matters of procedure and evidence. These rules were long described as inadequate and unsatisfactory, particularly from the perspective of rape complainants.

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