Sexual Abuse of Children: public hearings

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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


12 March 2002

Chairperson: Mr Saloojee

Relevant submissions:
[These submissions will appear as soon as PMG receives the electronic versions]
Cape Town Child Welfare Society.
Woman Against Child Abuse WACA Advice Centre
South African National Council for Child Welfare
Childline (See Appendix 1)
Its Your Move Youth Action
UN Child Justice Project
South African Human Rights Commission Report on Sexual Offences against Children
Submission by Felicia Dyanti, rape survivor
South African Catholic Bishops' Conference submission ( See Appendix 2)
Domestic Violence Help-line Report on Child Abuse
Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN) submission
National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) submission
Letter from Clifford Bestall, (Film Director) to the Task Group

Cape Town Child Welfare Society presented their contribution to the prevention of child rape and abuse in the communities. Women Against Community Abuse Advice Centre advised the task group on their efforts which were made in the communities in Garankuwa toward the prevention of child rape and abuse. South African National Council for Child Welfare advised the task group that despite commendable legislation which was in place in South Africa, the number of cases of rape and abuse of children had increased. The Budget and funding of child protection services was inadequate and much reform was needed to secure intersectoral responsibility to eradicate the problem of child abuse and rape.

Childline highlighted the services offered to any child or family member in South Africa, and offered a few solutions to child sexual assault. The Human Rights Commission presented the Child Justice Project,and a short report on the Sexual Offences Against Children, and if the Criminal Justice System protected children. Its Your Move Youth Action presented on their work on trying to prevent the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. Finally, a rape survivor told the task group about her ordeals and its impact.

South African Catholic Bishops' Conference, Domestic Violence Help-Line, Resources aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, National Association of Democratic Lawyers briefed the Committee on the growing crisis of sexual abuse of children in South Africa. The submission from Shadow pictures caused some angry reaction from Members who took exception to what they perceived to be an attack on the State President. Members also voiced ethical concerns over the shooting of a documentary investigating child rape.

Child Welfare Society
Ms Rashieda Ebrahim from the Cape Town Child Welfare Society advised that their contribution toward preventing child abuse took the form of a cost -effective community capacity building program to deal with abuse and neglect which had been running since 1997. The program involved the training of community volunteers to:
Detect and investigate child abuse and neglect;
Take whatever action was appropriate to protect the child;
Provide ongoing monitoring and support to the families concerned.

Some of the community volunteers
a) form part of the community to oversee the project;
b) Run safe houses where children could be protected short-term
She said that these projects involve real empowerment of community members.

Besides being taught new skills, volunteers:
were authorized by the Magistrates Courts to remove children if necessary;
Direct the program through the communities which had the power to do so.

She briefed the task group on the 'Eye on the Children- Isolabantwana' project which is a community based child protection program which advocated the collaboration of communities and formal resources when protecting vulnerable children. Ms Ebrahim stated that the benefits of this program were endless, since services are localized to the community and effective 24 hour child protection is available.

This was followed by a short presentation by Ms Cathy Solomons, a community volunteer, who spoke about her experiences and how they dealt with cases after hours. She mentioned that at night, they accompanied victims to the police station, then to the hospital, and finally took the child to a place of safety until the social workers follow up the matter in the morning. She said that her efforts were worthwhile when previously broken children and families reunite through counselling, or the placement of the children in a better home. There had also been an improvement in the community as there were fewer cases of abuse and neglect as now people were more aware of their presence and children were made aware of their rights.

A member remarked that the welfare society was based in the Western Cape, and asked how were they establishing themselves to obtain more community coverage.

Ms Ebrahim said that they have their presence felt in 14 different communities including sites B, C, F, I, and J of Khayalitsha, and that they had targeted these communities because the statistics of abuse are the highest there. They were offering training on a National basis as far as Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban, and were also focussing on rural areas. Knysna had also been targeted for training of volunteers and their program was extending up to Vredendal. This year there is a plan to go up to the Northern Cape.
Dr van Zyl asked Ms Solomoms if there was a system of support for the social workers or volunteers to help them deal with the trauma of child abuse cases.
She replied that her husband and family were her support group and helped her cope with the cases. She stated that some of the cases mad the workers very heart sore. She said it took a lot of hard work and courage to help the victims of abuse.

A member said that she would like to know more about the places of safety: How do they operate and where are they situated?
Ms Ebrahim stated that a child would be placed for a maximum of 48 hours in a place of safety, Depending on the severity of the abuse the child was normally sent back for integration into the family, but with counselling. A family was given three chances to integrate itself and function as a family unit, if not the child is placed with the extended family member(s) and only thereafter will foster care be considered.

A member asked what types of abuse were highly prevalent, whether it was neglect or sexual abuse and if there were records kept of the types of abuses.

Ms Ebrahim said that neglect was the biggest problem because of the high level of poverty, everyone in the family tried to find work or abandoned the child because they were unable to care for the child. This was followed by substance abuse and inadequate care by a care giver. This was followed by physical and sexual abuse.

A member asked how was this project financed and how will it be sustained in the future. She asked how safe the safe- houses really are.

Ms. Ebrahim stated that the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund to a large extent helps with the funding. The government too subsidized the organization, but they relied on public donations as well.

Committee member Van Wyk asked what problems the organization experienced and which of these would they like to be addressed.

Ms Ebrahim said that professional people should recognize the input from the community volunteers in their effort to combat the abuse of children, and said that a university degree was not necessary to render your assistance to these children. There was a need to correspond with other resources like doctors and hospital staff and many of the people did not wish to interact with these community volunteers. There were identity tags issued to community volunteers to say that they were accredited by the Cape Town Children Welfare Society. She said that people just did not recognise the value of the work that was being done by the community workers, and hoped that the Department would recognise that these people were fighting for the children of this country and that one does not need a degree to do this.

Women against Community Abuse
Ms Angie Molebatsi, the National Co-Ordinator of WACA Advice Centre (Women Against Community Abuse), which was established in 1988. They provide assistance over a range of issues including: woman and child abuse, drug abuse, maintenance issues, land disputes as well as skills development. WACA networks with the SAPS, CPU, Justice and Education Departments. WACA listed the causes of child rape as:
a) Being no communication between the children and mothers,
b) Alcohol and drugs whereby mothers leave minor children with boyfriends, uncles and stepfathers,
c) The belief that HIV/Aids would be cured by having sex with a virgin,
d) Unemployment - causing children to walk long distances to school and accepting lifts from strangers (for example the Portuguese man who raped about 8 children (ranging between 5 and 8 years).

Ms Molebatsi said that there was a gap existing in the legislation that should protect the children:
a) Withdrawal of cases (CR 97/07/99 where a Lutheran priest sodomised 11 children aged between 8 to 13 years of age.)
b) Postponement of cases that eventually drag on for 2 to 3 years (CR 178/4/99 where two mentally retarded sisters were raped and the perpetrator was acquitted),
c) Perpetrators being acquitted because of a lack of evidence (CR 223/03/2000 and 203/03/2000 where a 4 year old girl was abducted, raped and murdered).

In conclusion she stated that there were several recommendations to combat the problems listed above:
a) Introducing higher sentences for convicted rapists,
b) Women should be encouraged to attend workshops and support groups to, learn how to interact with their children,
c) Shabbiness and tardiness should not be allowed- all CPU's should not be in the police station but outside to create a safe environment for rape victims and remove the element of fear in them,
d) Rape cases should not be prolonged- as this leads to victims forgetting the details

A member asked what an appropriate “harsh Sentence� for a rapist should be. Also the role of a mother who leaves her child with a boyfriend/ uncle or stepfather and was charged with neglect, what are the recommendations for a sentence for the mother.
Ms Molebatsi recommended a sentence of about 20 to 30 years be handed down for a rapist, and that a mother should also be given a sentence for neglecting her child.

Mr. Jassat asked if boys were being sodomised as a result of the myth of sex with a virgin curing HIV/AIDS, and whether people convicted of these crimes should be given the Anti-Retroviral treatment in prisons.

Ms Molebatsi said that this treatment should be given to prisoners.

A member asked that when a case of rape by a family member was reported, who did the social worker turn to first?
Ms Molebatsi said initially the victim was accompanied to the police station and lay a charge. Thereafter the person was accompanied to the hospital for a medical examination. They also accompany the police to the perpetrator's home to ensure his arrest. Thereafter they provide support and counselling, and even attend the trial to ensure counselling and support throughout the process.

A member asked about the perpetrators who were acquitted, and whether they re integrate themselves into the community or were asked to leave. What were the chances of these people continuing with these offences?

Ms Molebatsi said that sometimes they left that specific area and continue with these acts in the new community in which they integrate themselves.

A member asked if apart from the support given to the victim, are there programs in place to educate the community to increase the awareness of the people and thereby reduce the incidents of rape. Are they educating people to ensure that they give strong evidence in court to aid witnesses to present themselves in court adequately?

Ms Molebatsi said that they do render workshops to the victim and the families of the victim, there is counselling and before they go to court they remind them of the incident and previous statements given.

A member stated that there was a lack of communication between mother and child, and asked from Ms Molebatsi's experience if she could identify what was wrong with the parenting skills. What led to the block of communication and could she suggest what programs were in place to address this issue.

Ms Molebatsi said that this normally occurred where a women was trying to maintain or restore her relationship with her husband or boyfriend. In these situations if the child said that they were being molested, abused or raped, the mother simply would not believe the child. There were programs and workshops in place to remedy this situation, and to encourage mothers to give priority to the needs of their children.

A member asked that in respect of mentally retarded children, what type of evidence is required and how do you go about obtaining it.

A prosecutor from X Court who was present at the hearings said that there were facilities whereby a victim was referred to the Cape Mental Heath Institution to assist this victim in drawing a report. This report would indicate the capacity of the victim and the type of evidence to be expected from that victim. They assisted in trying to prepare the witness for testimony. In this situation forensic corroboration of evidence was very important. DNA samples and evidence of witnesses would also play a major role in the case. The prosecutor stated that the courts had to deal with these cases more cautiously.

Mr. Cachalia asked if a mother should be punished for neglecting her child.

Ms Molebatsi said that she should be asked to serve a community sentence, to clean the police station, the clinic and be ordered to attend workshops on how to deal with their children.

South African National Council for Child Welfare,
Mr Kalyan, the National Director of South African National Council for Child Welfare, the largest non-profit organisation in the country, presented a submission to the task group. He stated that there was a need to address the problem at root level. He said that there was the awareness of the facts that led to abuse, that they were numerous and include amongst others: gender inequality, balance of power, alcohol and myths. He said that most fundamental was how the children are being viewed: that children were a commodity and it was a widespread problem where children were viewed as inferior and not respected. He said that this was linked to a type of moral decline, therefore there was the need to work toward the moral regeneration of our country.

He said at present we were paying lip service to the Child Protection Legislations in place, which were all commendable, but not implemented. He said that there was the need to educate communities and people about the needs, rights and vulnerabilities of children. The installation of children's rights and cultures in the communities was not happening. There was the need for stronger law enforcement and harsher sentences to be imposed on offender friendly court system to eliminate delays and there should be consistencies in the sentences being imposed on offenders.


A member asked what was the National Strategy referred to in the document submitted to the group.

Mr Kalyan stated that children were still abused whilst there were legislations such as the Child Care Act, the Sexual Offences Act and other protocols in place. He said that there was the need to create within the communities the awareness of families relatives and community members the of the abuse and instill the needs for children and be on the watch for perpetrators. If we can succeed in mobilizing the community to accept stronger responsibility towards the children can go a long way to prevent child abuse. He said that there is the need for people in the communities to facilitate the processes of empowerment, education, and understanding, and to draw in all community members in the fight against child abuse.

A member asked if there was service training available to social workers to personally deal with the trauma and horrors of these types of cases regularly.
He said that the need for constant in service training and feed-backs was one of the drawbacks. There was the need for proper human resources development and there was just never enough resources available for this. Specific human resources training was not received, and even though the social workers receive their training and there was ongoing training, specific human resources training was not received.

 A member asked if social workers got better salaries, would this would decrease the rate of abuse occurring.

Mr Kalyan replied that he was convinced that there should be better working conditions for all people employed in the field of supporting and strengthening the community. Low levels of pay and poor working conditions had the inevitable result of a demoralized and demotivated workforce. He stated that the pressure placed on social workers was immense and a few workers were expected to do the impossible. He said that because of the high demand in terms of case loads, there was little room to embark on preventative strategies. He said that yes, there was direct correlation between working conditions and the ability to respond to the needs of a community.

Mr Kalyan said that he was lobbying for stronger social security provisions as the amount allocated for child support was inadequate.

The chair mentioned that that most of the social workers felt uncomfortable in being restricted to work only on case matters that there was the need for interaction with the institutions of the country and he stated that transformation was not happening in this regard.

Human Rights Commission
Ms Mabuzela was a representative of the South African Human Rights Commission. She stated that children's rights were human rights therefore when we intervened its because of our belief that we have a mandate from the Constitution to do so. She presented a submission headed Report on “Sexual Offences against children Does the criminal justice system protect children�. She briefly summarized the report for the group. Thereafter Commissioner Ms Charlotte Mclaine, briefly pointed out the key findings in the report.


A member asked how ordinary victims of child abuse referred their cases to the Human Rights Commission (HRC).

Ms Mabuzela replied that the HRC was not a service provider, however they knew of the importance to intervene at the grass roots level, therefore they held workshops NGOs/CPOs and children to teach them about their rights.

Mr Baloyi asked why was the report silent about the most important aspect of the child's environment- its home.

Ms Mabuzela replied that this was not the report in its entirety. They had only shared the Introduction  findings and recommendation to the task group.

A member said that she is aware of the lack of resources but how have they made it possible for people in the rural areas to gain access to workshops.
Ms Mabuzela said that they are sensitive to the issue that people in rural areas get less services offered to them, hence they are working with paralegals and NGO's and others to try and reach every person. She said that just because a place is not mentioned in the discussions does not mean it is not accessed.

 Ms van Niekerk, the Chairperson of Childline SA, held a submission advising the group about the long record of service delivery. It represented 6 Regional Childline structures, it had a toll free number and one could call the crisis number any day at any time. She outlined the services offered by Childline and highlighted that sexual abuse was the single largest category of child problems that Childline dealt with.
She said that in Kwa -Zulu Natal there were numerous referrals to the Department of Education as educators were abusing children however these matters were not responded to. She read out her submissions dealing with the causal factors contributing to the increase in child sexual assault and dealt with the solutions to the problem.

Dr Baloyi asked what comprised the treatment for child sex offenders.
Ms van Niekerk said that there was a program in place in this country to deal with these offenders. There was careful strict supervision to deal with them in the community. There was a strong need to keep them out of institutions because that was where they experience lot of abuse as well.

Ms Kalia asked about child headed households and if these children were more vulnerable to abuse, and whether statistics were available on the number of cases.
Ms van Niekerk said these data was difficult to collect as matters come to their knowledge in an informal way. She said that it was her belief that the children should have a childhood in which they should be protected, rather than control the behaviour of others.

Mr Cupido asked about juveniles awaiting trial and the warders selling them to other prisoners as sexual favours. What was the extent of that problem and were any statistics available.

Ms van Niekerk said that there was a commission in Durban looking into the prison system and that the extent of the problem was not fully known.

Mr Maabe asked what was the factor leading to the increase in gang rape.

Ms van Niekerk said research had been conducted from the perspective of offenders details will be made available to the group when it is available.

Ms van Niekerk said that there was very little cooperation by the Department of Education and pointed out the lack of representatives from that Department as well as from SAPS.

Youth Action Committee
 Ms Zeenat Ebrahim from the Youth Action committee submitted a powerpoint presentation on the work that the committee is involved with, namely preventing the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (SECS).

Dr Jassat asked how big this organisation was, and where did it receive its funding from, and if  they linked up with Love Life.
Ms Ebrahim said that it was not linked with Love Life, it was a component of Molo Songololo which consisted of about 50 to 60 young people and that they network with organizations across the country. They received their funding from Molo Songololo, a Swedish and German organisation.
Another member asked if they focussed on the abuse experienced by males, as the delegation present were comprised of females only.
Ms Ebrahim said that there were male members of the organization but that this aspect of the presentation focussed mainly on who were mostly involved with prostitution.

Child Justice Project
 Ms Buyi Mbambo advised that the Child Justice Project was a United Nations Technical Assistance Project to the Government of South Africa for the Implementation of the Proposed Child Justice legislation. Apart from working on the Project she stated that she was a social worker whose had great experience working with children. She briefly went over what the submission seeks to address and the chair opened the floor for discussion.

A member stated that this was a united Nations project. and what was the situation in other countries especially in third world countries and other developing countries. She asked if there were corrective measures used there, and if we could learn from them.

Ms Mbambo stated that a lot of work had been done in this area in first world countries. Current research was being done about Africa's situation and valuable lessons could be learnt from the work done in America and the United Kingdom. which could be adopted and adapted to fit to South Africa's situation.

Dr Baloyi stated that what had been stated in the proposals were things which we have already looked at. In terms of the research's Budget proposals how do you ensure that they were “doable�.

Ms Mbambo stated the whole notion of diversion would be introduced for the first time in our country This project was looking at projection what we were going to do is engage in a costing exercise to develop an implementation program, hence the need to budget accordingly.

Briefing by Ms. Felicia Dyanti
Ms Dyanti was a rape survivor who wished to share her story with the public. She said that her mother sent her away to live with relatives at age 6 and living with her relatives was similar to being treated like a slave. She was raped by a family member on numerous occasions and nobody wished to take her seriously or believe her story. She stated the need to break the conspiracy of silence about rape so that people can learn from the mistakes of their parents and deal with rape survivors.

Dr Baloyi asked if her mother to this day does not know of her rape ordeal.

Ms Dyanti said that she had written her story in a book. Her mum could not understand and relate to her ordeal as they were now complete strangers due to her being away for such a long period of time.

Ms Bloom asked what was the community attitude toward rape survivors.
Ms Dyanti said that some deny that it actually happened, whilst some people accused victims of enjoying being raped. She said that her community did not understand the plight of victims.

Ms Kalia thanked Ms Dyanti for speaking out but stated her concern about the media's presence and exposing her ordeal to her family She asked if the exposure would prejudice her and attach a stigma to her.

Ms Dyanti stated that her husband and children were aware of her rape, it is only her mother and sisters and some of her community people who did not understand her ordeal.

Another member stated that it was very courageous for her to speak out today but stated the need for her to continue to seek therapy. She also stated that as Ms Dyanti daughter was very disturbed about the fact that her mother was raped, it  should be a reason for her daughter to receive therapy and counselling so that she could deal with a rape survivor if faced with one.

South African Catholic Bishops' Conference Parliamentary Liaison Office
Rev Peter-John Pearson and Adv. Mike Pothier represented the SACBC. Rev Pearson issued the following submission: [Please refer to attached document]

A Member said that shocking reports such as the one yesterday claiming that fifty percent of children in KwaZulu Natal were abused, have been heard during the course of these submissions. Was the Church picking up similar patterns and did it have a way to deal with it?

Rev Pearson said that the Church was more aware of the prevalence of sexual abuse, mainly due to the willingness of people to enter support groups for victims of sexual abuse.

A Member noted the twin issues mentioned in the report of moral breakdown and male involvement in the perpetration of sexual abuse. She said that most leadership of the various denominations were male. Were there any moves for inter-faith discussion to address these issues.

Rev Pearson said that the Catholic Church was involved in pilot projects whereby men counsel and work as role models to other men. It was called the five in six project as five in six men were not perpetrators of sexual abuse. He added that there were inter-faith groupings around packages of issues that also include other areas of crime and violence.

Adv Pothier added that the Church still needs to face the fact that they were male dominated at the top and that this reflection of patriarchal society was problematic.

Mr Dithebe (ANC) referred to the proposal contained in SACPC's report that a Ministry be created especially for the needs of children. He said that this would run the risk of duplicating the office in the Presidency created for Women, Youth and Disabled.

Adv Pothier replied that children have different needs to women, the disabled and youth. Whereas these groups could organise themselves, children were unable to without someone championing their interests. A high profile Cabinet Minister with the children's interests at heart would have a higher public profile than simply an office in the Presidency.

A Member asked if the Church accepts the ABC (Abstain, Be faithful and Condomise) campaign initiated by the Department of Health, especially the use of condoms.  Was the National Lottery accepted by the Church.

Adv Pothier replied that the Catholic Church supported the A and the B, but not the C. He said that the official line of the Church was that it has been shown that condoms were not reliable as a barrier to transmitting the virus. He said that even if it was shown that in one, two or three percent of the cases that condoms fail, then it was a question of life or death. He said that the Church did not feel therefore that it was a legitimate risk and believed that A and B could be achieved if society puts its mind to it. He added that many Catholic theologians say that if one cannot live up to A or B, then C should perhaps be used. He said that a view was also gaining currency in the Church that condoms could be used in marriages where one partner was infected. With regards to the lottery, Adv Pothier said that the Church was not against the lottery or gambling. He said that it was a question of moderation and that there was nothing wrong with spending a few Rands a week on gambling as long as it was responsible. He said that the Church shared a concern with other members of the public that funds from the National Lottery were not forthcoming.

Ms L Mabe (ANC) said that the Church played a great role in creating patriarchy and asked what the Church was doing to change those attitudes.
What was the opinion of the Church on the role of the media changing attitudes towards women.

Adv Pothier agreed that the Church had a historical role in spreading patriarchy. He said that there was a growing understanding of the problem at the leadership level of the Church. He said that great progress had been made at grass-roots level where a greater sharing of the leadership responsibility occurred , even though priests remained male. He felt that this might be the precursor to the first woman being ordained into the priesthood.

Dr Baloyi (IFP) asked if the representatives could expand on paragraph 4.2 of the document that stated the importance of education.

Adv Pothier replied that a start would be to change the attitudes of educators and pupils as even teasing and the way in which girls were seen by boys, sometimes with male teachers complicity was a problem.

Domestic Violence Helpline- Durban
Ms Salosh Pillay from the Domestic Violence Helpline briefed the Committee. [Please refer to attached document]

Ms Kalyan (DP) said that the document showed that the three male victims of sexual abuse had not reported their abuse. She asked why males had chosen not to report. Ms Kalyan also asked if the convictions had been successful and if the CPU (Child Protection Unit) had been effective.

Ms Pillay said that the CPU had been extremely effective.

 A Member referred to paragraph two of the document that outlined the choice that had to be made between strengthening family life and crime being perpetrated in the home. She said that in the United Kingdom there was a register of perpetrators. She asked whether Ms Pillay would agree with such a register.

Ms Pillay replied that she felt that a register of offenders would be effective. She said that she also felt that other measures such as corporal punishment would be effective.

A Member commented that it was quite rare that a mother perpetrates sexual abuse.

Ms. Pillay said that it was rare and that there could be a variety of factors that made the child report it, perhaps the fact that the child was badly beaten.

The Member asked if the abuse was physical rather than sexual.

Ms. Pillay said that she was not permitted to explain the exact nature of the abuse.

Shadow Pictures
Mr Bestall explained the nature of a documentary his company had been commissioned to film for the BBC entitled “Dark Heart�. He said that his submission was based on insights gained filming the documentary which largely investigated the rape of Baby Tsepang. He made it clear that the film crew did not claim to be experts on the issue of child abuse.

Mr Bestall made mention of the fact that Baby Tsepang had not been gang-raped as originally announced by the MEC of health. This was the same MEC who had fired the official who broke rank to give Neviripine to Baby Tsepang.

Mr Bestall said that the raping of babies did not start with baby Tsepang and would not end there. The first recorded incident was in May 1997 and that there had been seven reported incidents since last October.

Mr Bestall said that it was the experience of the Crew that the CPUs in Cape Town and Uppington had been incredible. Their work was not rewarded adequately as they received only R4 800 a month with a cap of R2 600 on their over-time. He said that some officers worked over nine hundred hours over-time a year and handled approximately seventy to ninety cases.

It was his conclusion that the Government was short-changing the children. He asked rhetorically whether there could be a higher priority than the nation's children. Mr Bestall urged that the CPU be treated more importantly- it should not be a dumping ground for disgraced police personnel from other departments as was the case with the police officer found guilty of fraud in one police department and moved to the CPU.

Mr Bestall ventured a few possibilities as to the high rate of child abuse in South Africa. He stressed that it was not confined to a single racial group. One major cause was the myth propagated by Sangomas that sex with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS. Mr Bestall said that the Government could surely have the capacity through its information service to quell the spread of this myth. Lastly, he said that another and more difficult problem was young children being placed in the care of jobless men in poor communities who were prone to drug and alcohol abuse.

Mr Bestall said that the Government must demonstrate that it favoured the weakest in society. The President must tell the nation that rape would not be tolerated and that easy bail would not be handed out to perpetrators.

A member said that Mr Bestall was creating the wrong impression. She said that this Task Group would not be listening to these submissions if the government did not care. She said that Mr Bestall was saying that the President was not doing anything, but that actually he was taking the lead in such things. She asserted that it was Non-Governmental Organisations that needed to be strengthened.

The Chair requested that Members restrict themselves to asking questions of those giving submissions. He said that such comments could be put in a report later.

A Member asked Mr Bestall if the President was responsible for the entire country.

Another Member said that the film was called “Dark heart�. He asked if there were any white children among the seven cases referred to by Mr Bestall.

Mr Bestall replied that one white baby had been raped by her biological, white grandfather.

The Member asked why this was a secret while the other cases were public knowledge.

Mr Bestall replied that he was not in a position to answer why the Press highlights a particular case and not others.

A Member asked how the children featured in the documentary had their rights protected. She asked whether or not there was family consent and said that she would be concerned that the identities of the children as sexually abused would be known when they have grown up.   

Mr Bestall said that the television coverage on SABC and E-TV had not been concerned with hiding the identity of the parents. He said that his film company had asked for an embargo of the film in South Africa.

The Member asked Mr Bestall if he was saying that the film would not be shown in South Africa, but overseas.

Mr Bestall said that it would be primarily shown in the United Kingdom as it was filmed for the BBC.

The Member angrily asked why the British should watch South African children being raped.

Dr Baloyi said that he agreed with the last statement. He said that the film would find its way into South Africa within twenty-four hours in any case.

Mr Bestall said that he was not happy about the idea either but that his crew were only the messengers and that they wanted to see an end to these crimes as much as anyone.

Ms Mabe (ANC) said that on page 2, no. 3, there was reference to reversing the government's position on anti-retrovirals for rape victims. Would pilot projects set up be reversed?

Mr Bestall said that of course he did not mean this. He meant that the confusing messages sent out by the government regarding anti-retrovirals had to be dealt with.

Ms Mabe asked if Mr Bestall was implying that child abuse only took place in areas that had set up street committees in the past such as the townships.
Another member said that we no longer need street committees, we have democracy and therefore Local Government.

Mr Bestall apologised for referring to street committees. He said hat he had respect for them during the 1980s. He said that he thought that street committees could empower communities.

A Member asked if the families of the victims had consented.

Mr Bestall said that the kinds of films he made such as Cages of Dreams- the documentary on prison life, could only be made with family consent.

 A Member said that Cages of Dreams  could not be compared to this film. Mr Bestall referred to the children as characters and asked sarcastically if the children auditioned and if they got paid.

Mr Bestall said that of course there were no auditions- the film is a documentary. He said that the families involved received certain gratuities from the film company.

A Member asked what the aims of this documentary were.

Mr Bestall said that the aim was to expose the issues and ask new questions as well as to seek answers to the questions raised.

Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN)
Kirsten Franci presented on the resources aimed at Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
[Please refer to attached document]

A Member referred to the statement that doctors were not always properly trained. She asked what the representatives from RAPCAN suggest instead.

Edith Kriel of RAPCAN said that nurses could provide medical examinations.

The Member asked if the evidence of these nurses would stand up in court.

Ms Kriel replied that nurses could be expert witnesses and had been in the past. She said it was a question of whether a nurse qualifies to perform the examination which had to be addressed.

A Member asked if it was a good thing that South Africa had highest number of reported cases.

Ms. Kriel said that despite having the highest number of reported cases, there were still many children who did not report. She said that South Africa has the highest number of report and incidences.

A member said that RAPCAN was a member of the South African Young Offenders Programme. She asked what other members belong to the programme

Ms. Kriel said that there were other stakeholders such as the Institute of Criminology, NICRO, Community Law Centre. She explained that the programme dealt with young sex offenders and put them where possible in diversion programmes.

A Member said that he grew up in poverty. He said that although the community was very poor there was no incidence of rape and that poverty did not alone cause sexual abuse.

Ms. Kriel said that RAPCAN was not saying that sexual abuse should be excused in poor communities, rather that poverty placed stresses on people. She re-iterated that sexual abuse was not being condoned in poor communities.

A Member asked if RAPCAN had programmes for young children who abuse each other.

Ms Kriel said that it was important to look at prevention. She said that RAPCAN assumed that children could not run and shout “Rape!� and that therefore prevention was very important. She said that children who were very young did not have sexual knowledge and they are therefore not trying to rape someone, rather they were trying to get mastery over something that has happened to them.

A Member asked if Ms. Kriel believed that jail was detrimental to rapists. Ms Kriel said that jail was necessary but not the only solution. She said that the treatment of prisoners who were usually raped themselves in prison only creates worse perpetrators.

National Association of Democratic Lawyers-
Dr Johanna Kehler of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers briefed the Committee.
[Please refer to the document attached]

A Member said that Dr Kehler was one of the culprits who traumatised children who were victims of sexual abuse in court.

Dr Kehler declined to respond to the comment.

A Member asked how Child abuse could be prevented as the hearings had been mainly concerned with the treatment of the victims and the perpetrators.

Dr Kehler said that a first step would be the acknowledgement of the problem with campaigning against it from all levels of society.

A Member asked Dr Kehler how she would propose dealing with people being framed of sex crimes if the cautionary rule was abolished.

Dr Kehler said that the main problem was held to be that children misrepresent the truth and it had little to do with framing of victims.

A Member asked what Dr Kehler suggested be put in place to make the handling of cases more sensitive.

Dr Kehler replied that everyone in court should be trained to act with sensitivity.

 A Member asked if NADEL believed that the law could close all the gaps.

Dr Kehler said that no law could guarantee against this, but that an effort should be made.

A Member asked what type of punishment Nadel recommended to rapists and young rapists.

Dr Kehler said that Children's Courts should be used up to a certain age. She said however that older children of say 16, 17 or 18 should not be given the protection of the law.

Appendix 1


Submitted by Joan van Niekerk, Chairperson Childline SA, also Chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Child Abuse and Neglect Protocol Committee.

Note: The present legal definition of rape is very narrow and presently excludes oral and anal rape. The term sexual assault is therefore used as it is more inclusive and appropriate. Anal and oral rapes have just as serious consequences for the child victim both physically and psychologically.


Childline SA represents 6 regional Childline structures that provide toll free crisis telephone counseling services to children and their families/caretakers throughout the country. Any child or family member in South Africa can telephone the crisis line any time of day or night, any day of the year. A total of 50,000 calls are received each month. Although the line receives large numbers of “test�calls, the largest number of serious calls relate to the sexual abuse of children.

Other services offered include :
-treatment of abused children and their families,
-court preparation for the child victim,
-abuse education and prevention programmes,
-training of lay counselors, both for the crisis counseling lines as well as for remote rural and semi-rural areas where there are no formal resources providing services in the field of management and prevention of child abuse,
 -training of professionals who work with abused children,
 -networking and co-ordination of child abuse services,
-advocacy and advisory services to policy and legislative development,
-some Childline centers provide for the treatment of child, adolescent and adult sexual offenders.

Sexual abuse is the single largest category of child problems that Childline deals with. Our history spans 16 years of service delivery to the country's children. Our services tend to be used by the poorer sections of our communities as services are not charged for and any child or caregiver who has access to a telephone, has access to our services.

Childline has conducted extensive research with child victims of sexual assault, as well as with the perpetrators of sexual assault. This firsthand work and research has given us an in-depth insight into what causes sexually abusive behaviour.


After conducting an overview of statistics of reported child abuse over the last 10 years Childline has noted:

A massive increase in the number of reported cases of child sexual abuse - up by 400%.
A decrease in the average age of the sexual assault victim. In 1991 the average age of the sexually assaulted child was between 10 and 12 years. Presently 50% of all children attending KZN'S therapy services after sexual abuse are under the age of 7 years.
A decrease in the average age of the sexual offender. In 2000, 43% of all cases of sexual assault reported to Childline nationally were committed by children under the age of 18 years.
An escalation of the use of brute force. Many of the sexually abused children attending our therapy centers are also severely beaten and seriously intimidated by the person who has sexually assaulted them.
An increase in the reported incidence of gang rape.


Information in this section is supported by our work and research with both victims and perpetrators of child sexual assault

The socio-political history of the country has eroded family and community life. Apartheid laws, migrant labour practices, and the culture of violence that developed through the struggle for freedom have separated, disintegrated and distanced many families and communities.

Few of the offenders that Childline has dealt with over the years come from families that were intact. Typically the family life of many of these offenders is characterized by the disintegration of the family, and physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse of the women and children within the family unit. Particularly the family life (or lack thereof) of child offenders is characterized by severe emotional, relationship and/or physical deprivation. Many of these children lack guidance and control, the opportunities to learn family values, and the opportunity to learn relationship skills such as empathy, negotiating the fulfillment of needs via relationships, etc. Father figures and role models are often absent - if not physically then emotionally.

The traditional methods of teaching young people responsible sexual behaviour have been lost and alternatives that are acceptable have not yet been integrated into the fabric of family and community life.

The media constantly reinforces a message that sexual expression should be free and unfettered by values, faithfulness and self-control. Even children from rural areas are exposed to messages that do not promote consideration for the sexual rights and safety of others.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic and the myths that accompany it have also contributed to the vulnerability of children. Many children are living with caretakers who are not biological parents, or on their own as sibling groups. As access to social security is unavailable or difficult to access for many of these children, they are easily exploited sexually in exchange for the meeting of basic needs.

The pandemic of domestic violence is a contributing factor. Sadly Childline encounters many adult female victims of domestic violence who are, or have been, unable to protect their children from sexual assault from their adult partners.

Poverty contributes enormously to the sexual vulnerability of children. The absence of the child support grant for children over the age of 7 years is an iniquitous blight on family life for those families who live without an income and in poverty. Many children support their family, pay their school fees, have their uniforms and books supplied through sexual favours. The sexual exploitation of learners by educators remains largely unaddressed by the Department of Education.
The lack of/inadequate service delivery from all sectors, particularly the SAPS, that assist abused children gives the impression to sexual offenders that they can continue to abuse with impunity. Childline has dealt with many children and familes who

             -    have been turned away from their local police stations when they have 
                        attempted to report abuse
             -   have not been notified of court dates, resulting in charges being
have been persuaded by SAPS members to accept some payment in exchange for withdrawing charges
not been able to access medical examinations for their children
have been the victims of “lost� dockets
have been assessed by police or medical staff as “not traumatized� and therefore a docket has not been opened leaving the child in clear and immediate danger
are not afforded the protection of bail and where existing bail legislation is not used appropriately. An example is given where bail was granted to the rapist of a young child and where the child was raped again because she disclosed. The rapist was again released on bail for the second rape. The child is now in hiding.
Have not had the advantage of the protective intermediary system when testifying in court. The intermediary system is often not made available to a young child to facilitate testifying against a sexual assailant because the magistrate/judge does not accept that testifying in the same courtroom as the assailant is traumatic for the child
Cases of sexual assault that are reported to the Department of Social Development sometimes take up to a year before any service is offered to the child and family. This results in children being left in vulnerable situations for long periods of time during which they are subjected to continuous acts of sexual and physical assault
Instances in which the SAPS have not responded to an urgent request for assistance with respect to a victim who is in immediate danger.
Instances in which the various sectors fail to co-ordinate with each other and the sexually assaulted child is compromised by the lack of communication and cooperation of the different parts of the system.

(examples of each of the above will be given in oral evidence)

            The failure of the child protection system to protect children and the 
            continuous struggle to motivate the system to take action saps the energy and 
            resources of Childline. I can no longer count the number of children who have
            suffered acute secondary trauma at the hands of the systems that are failing
            them and who state that “I wish I had never told because what happened to me
            after I told was worse than the rape�.
            Many of the sectors mentioned above, when they are confronted with the non-
            delivery of services, state that they struggle with a lack of resources, both  
            material and personnel, lack of training, motivation and debriefing.

There is lack of financial support for the NGO Sector that works in the field of child sexual assault and provides essential services that contribute to the protection of vulnerable children. It is of enormous concern that NGO's who provide the bulk of child protection services are poorly supported and subsidized. Early childhood education facilities that provide many infants, toddlers and young children with safe care and protection are closing because of the lack of subsidy. These facilities are essential for the protection of children from poorer families whose caretakers cannot afford alternative care. Projects that support preventive strategies are poorly resourced, if at all.

The constant criticism of the NGO sector by the Minister of Social Development is both demoralising and unfair. It must be noted that in KwaZulu-Natal the bulk of quality child protection services in the welfare sector are provided by resource-strapped NGO's who work extensive hours for salaries well below those earned in the Government Department of Social Development. In fact referral to government welfare services in the Province is usually a last resort due to the unsatisfactory response.  The lack of adequate resources compromises preventive programmes and contributes to the secondary victimization of the child.
The lack of service delivery, free schooling and employment opportunities for youth, especially those living in poverty, has resulted in many young people feeling disillusioned and disempowered. There has not only been an increase in child sexual assault but also an increase in gang rape in which children are targeted by youth gangs, separated from their friends and raped by a number of sexual assailants.      

The Government has failed to accept, develop and implement the National Child Protection Strategy that was drawn up by a national group of experts in the child protection field representing all sectors of government involved in child protection as well as representatives of the NGO sector. This national strategy was developed by the National Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect and presented to the then Minister of Social Development in 1997. This strategy deals with both prevention and management of child abuse in all its forms.


Childline does not believe that there is a quick fix solution to the problem of child sexual assault. It is essential that so called solutions are carefully researched before they are lobbied with the general public or put to decision makers. Because this is a field which arouses strong human emotion it is essential that proposals and decisions are carefully thought through and not “knee jerk� reactions.

However the following suggestions are put forward:

Law Reform - this process is well underway both with regards to the reform of the Sexual Offences Act as well as the Review of the Child Care Act. These law reform recommendations are well researched and have also explored international efforts to solve the problem of child sexual assault. However unless resources and political will are committed to the implementation of law, these acts will remain “paper tigers�. At present we have some progressive legislation already in place. However it is simply not implemented.

It is also unrealistic to believe that heavier sentences for convicted child sex offenders will stem the tide of child abuse. Minimum sentences legislation has been in place for several years in SA and we still experience a rising tide of reports of child sexual abuse. The conviction rate is, at best, 5% of all reported cases. It is therefore clear that most sexual offenders will never be held accountable for their abusive behaviour. However we do need to look at offender management strategies that encourage the acknowledgement of offending behaviour (this has the advantage also of saving the child victim the trauma of testifying in a trial) and also offer treatment possibilities.

The development and implementation of a National Child Protection Strategy. At present there is no co-ordinated and comprehensive policy in place that facilitates the co-ordination of child protection work. Consequently efforts are piecemeal, resources are frequently wasted on projects that are not effective, or duplicate existing efforts etc. The various systems involved in child abuse need to develop and implement both intra and intersectoral management protocols so that each victim is appropriately managed and helped and the criminal justice system can achieve an improved conviction rate.

Role-players in the criminal justice system who fail in their responsibility to protect children through corruption, disinterest and carelessness must be held accountable for their failure and disciplined appropriately.

Resources must be committed to projects that effectively protect children from abuse.

Resources must be committed to projects that effectively manage children after they have been abused.

Roleplayers who work within the child protection system must appropriately selected for their roles, appropriately trained, and appropriately debriefed on a regular basis.

The Department of Education must be encouraged to:

include in life skills education the teaching of child and human rights as well as impulse management and education on responsible sexual behaviour to all learners, both male and female at every level of the educational process
include in life skills training as well as across the curriculum information and skills training on responsible parenting
develop schools as centers of learning and protection for all members of the communities in which they are situated. Courses on parenting could be held for parents in the community. Child care could be provided on school premises. Early childhood education could also be offered
stem the tide of sexual assaults on school children by educators and learners via ensuring that a protocol for the management of reports of sexual assault is developed and properly implemented, and by ensuring that educators who sexually exploit learners are dealt with in the strongest possible way.

The re-development of positive family and community life and values via projects in communities affected by historical disorganization, violence and poverty.

The introduction of social security for all children who are destitute, and easier access to those who are deserving of this assistance.

Attention must be paid to the child sexual offender - it is essential to develop programmes and services for these young people who are usually the victims of abuse themselves. They should, whenever appropriate, be diverted from the criminal justice system in which they are subjected to further abuse and exploitation, and exposed to programmes specially designed to address aberrant sexual behaviour and assist in the development of responsible sexual behaviour.

Punishment of the adult sex offender has to be more appropriate. Correctional Services have few programmes to address this problem available in prisons or under community corrections. The sexual assault of prisoners is pandemic in South Africa's prisons. Parole is extended to sexual offenders without proper assessment of their risk to the community or without programmes being put in place for their support and rehabilitation when they are returned to the community. Victims are not informed of release and thus are exposed to further risk.

Attention must be given to child victims of child sexual assault especially male victims. Our research at Childline indicates that the male victim of childhood abuse and neglect is more likely to develop abusive behaviour during both child and adulthood. Services to child victims should therefore be made available and accessible to all who need them.

Thank you for this opportunity to address the Committee and for your concern about the child victims of sexual assault in this country.

Joan van Niekerk

Appendix 2
12 March 2002

The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference welcomes the opportunity to address an issue which is of fundamental importance for the future and well-being of our nation.  We commend Parliament for instituting these hearings, and we trust that this marks the beginning of a concerted effort, involving both the government and NGO sectors, to make a real difference in the lives of abused children.

In recent years the Catholic Church has had to deal with the fact that a number of its clergy and religious sisters and brothers have themselves been guilty of abusing children.  While this problem has been highlighted elsewhere in the world, the Church in South Africa has been pro-active in establishing strict policies to deal with possible offenders.  In addition, the training of our personnel specifically addresses this issue. 

The problem of the sexual abuse of children obviously has a variety of causes: we wish to comment on some of them:

Moral breakdown: There have recently been calls, from President Mbeki among others, for a moral renewal of our society.  Looking at the crime rate, at the worrying examples of dishonesty and corruption in both the public and the private sectors, and at the levels of violence in our daily lives, it is clear that too many of our people have lost their moral bearings.  Behaviour is too often based on short-term personal gain, with little or no thought given to the consequences for other people.  It is not surprising, in this context, to find that the most vulnerable members of society - children - fall victim to those who wish to gratify themselves, or simply to exercise power.  Many people's sense of what is right and what is wrong has become perverted.  The Churches, and other religious bodies, have an important role to play in restoring a proper appreciation of what is morally acceptable and what is not; but the political leadership and all other influential forces must also be prepared to give moral leadership.

Social factors: It would be seriously mistaken to suggest that the problem is in any way confined to the poorer sections of society.  Nevertheless, we cannot deny that social factors such as overcrowding, unemployment, alcohol abuse, broken families, and so on, all play their part in causing the problem.  For example, we are often told that perpetrators suffer from low self-esteem, which can result from prolonged unemployment or an inability to provide for one's family; again, when large numbers of people, adults and children, are forced by poverty to share a room or a bed, the opportunities for sexual abuse are multiplied.

Dehumanisation of women: Gender relations in our society are still characterised by patriarchy in various forms; men are often inclined to regard women - be they girls or adults - as little more than a possession, someone whose role is to satisfy male needs and respond to male demands.  Until men are educated to realise that women of whatever age are autonomous, equal beings, we may expect that all kinds of abuse will continue.

Commodification of sex: There are powerful vested interests in society who will exploit anything in order to make a profit.  Increasingly, it seems, the advertising and entertainment industries, to name two, are prepared to market sex and sexuality commercially.  As a result, what ought to belong to the most intimate and personal aspects of life is turned into just another product, and we are encouraged to want this product just as we think we want an expensive car or a new kind of shampoo.  [And, in an age of instant gratification, it is little wonder that some people are unable to withstand the temptation to take what they want, especially when the one from whom they wish to take it is too small or too scared to resist.]

Lack of male involvement: It strikes us that while the overwhelming majority of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are men (and boys), it is mainly women who are trying to address the problem. As these hearings demonstrate, it is largely women social workers, crisis counsellors, activists and community workers who bear the burden of trying to change the attitudes and behaviour of the men who abuse children.  There is a desperate need for men to involve themselves in this work, to be role-models and teachers and to set a positive example for their colleagues, their brothers and their sons.

Towards Solutions
We turn now to some suggestions of practical steps for addressing the problem.

- There is a particular role for the religious sector.  In our preaching and teaching, in the way we instruct our young people in the values of their faiths, we must do everything possible to enforce the idea of respect for the rights of others.  We must counter-act the commodification of sex and the dehumanisation of women.  We must also respond actively to the call for moral renewal, and assist the political leadership in this quest.  South Africans are a religious people with a very high rate of attendance at services; there is no lack of opportunity for the message to be put across.

- Education is of fundamental importance.  We are aware that sexual abuse of children by other children, often at school, is on the increase.  Programmes must be developed and implemented in schools to educate children and youth about appropriate forms of behaviour and interaction.  Educators should be trained to identify problems of this kind and to intervene timeously.  But education must also happen among adults, in the community, the church, and the workplace.  There are numerous NGOs willing and able to provide such education and training, but too often they are unable to cover the ground because they lack sufficient funds.  One way of providing such funds would be to allocate a specific portion of the proceeds of the national lottery to organizations involved in this work; this would surely enjoy the support of the public who buy the lotto tickets but who often wonder what happens to the money.

-. Budget Priorities: It is said that social problems of this kind cannot be solved simply by 'throwing money at them'.  This is true up to a point, but it is also true that money and other resources are vital in addressing the problem.  The great work being done by NGOs could be far more effective, and have much greater reach into our communities, if they were to receive substantial funding from the government.  Likewise, within government, the child protection services of the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Department of Welfare are severely overstretched.  We have heard of case-officers with between 80 and 100 cases on their desks at any one time.  In this context we must state clearly that we find it unacceptable that government is planning to spend R50 billion on weapons of war while our children go unprotected from abuse.

- Partnerships. As we said at the beginning of our submission, we hope that these hearings mark the start of a process which will involve both the government and the non-government sectors.  There are so many organizations, from major NGOs to small community groups, who between them have built up a wealth of insight and experience.  Government institutions and officials need to forge partnerships with these groups, realising that they share the goal of improving our children's lives.  It is a source of much frustration when mistrust and suspicion, rather than co-operation, characterise the relationship.

A Dedicated Ministry: Finally, we would ask the Parliamentary task team to consider the possibility of recommending that a specific Cabinet portfolio be created to oversee children's affairs. The interests of children cut across numerous traditional portfolios, such as education, justice, finance, welfare, safety and security, and so on.  At the same time, children are without an organised voice of their own, and stand somewhat apart from the political process, with no vote and, for the younger ones, no understanding of how to advance their interests in the political sphere.  For all these reasons it is vital that children have a champion in the very heart of government.  If this suggestion were to be carried forward we would urge that someone of national stature, not necessarily a party politician, be considered; this would sends the message that our children's interests were to be free of party-political rivalry and competition.  As to the funding of such a Ministry, in the recent budget R15 billion was 'given back' to the taxpayer; we are quite sure that South African taxpayers would have been very happy to forego one or two billion of this tax relief if it were to be devoted to the interests of our most vulnerable, our most needy.  After all, each healthy, emotionally secure and happy child is a greater investment in our democracy, in our national well-being and in our future, than can be measured in Rands and cents.

Once again we thank those responsible for initiating these hearings; we hope that out of these discussions will emerge a new determination to tackle this scourge; and we assure all present of our prayers for the success of these efforts.


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