Reform of Sexual Offences Act: briefing

Social Development

16 November 1999
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

16 November 1999

Documents handed out :
Sexual Offences: The Substantive Law; Project 107 Executive Summary and Draft Bill of Discussion Paper 85

The project leader of the South African Law Commission's Project 107 on Sexual Offences, Ms Joanne van Niekerk, briefed the committee on Discussion Paper 85. It contained various progressive recommendations for the reform of the substantive law relating to sexual offences contained in a draft bill. Issues such as the persistent sexual abuse of children, child molestation, rape, stalking and prostitution were addressed. Initially the investigations of the project committee only dealt with sexual offences by and against children but it became clear that reforming the law on sexual offences would have far reaching consequences for adults as well. It was stressed that the Bill did not however contain the final views of the Commission since further comments and submissions had been invited.

Ms Joanne van Niekerk, the project leader of the South African Law Commission's Project 107 on Sexual Offences, presented the Discussion Paper to the committee (See Appendix 1). The Committee discussed the recommendations around reforming the sexual offences legislation.

Professor L. Ndabandaba (IFP) said that according to the executive summary, a husband could be convicted of raping his wife. He wanted to know whether the converse was also true, ie. whether a wife could rape her husband.

Ms van Niekerk said that the new definition of rape was gender neutral and therefore, if a woman forcefully had sex with her husband, she could also be charged with rape. In addition rape charges could be brought in the sphere of non-consensual homosexual relationships. There was therefore blanket protection regardless of gender.

Noting that Ms van Niekerk had reported that 70% of sexual offences involving children occurred within families, Professor Ndabandaba asked whether this meant that 70% of sexual offences amounted to incest. He also commented on the commission's recommendation that the age of consent in terms of commercial sex be increased to 18 years. He said that he could not agree more.

Ms van Niekerk said that most sexual offences involving children were incestuous. Sadly the highest percentage involved thers/stepfathers/mother's partners and daughters. Other common instances involved uncles, older brothers, cousins and so on.

Secondly, with regard to commercial sexual problems, she said that street children were among the most abused in terms of child pornography, by wealthy people. Port Elizabeth was a problem area in this regard. Street children were protected by the legislation from commercial sex work. The main concern was making the legislation work since for many of the street children this was just basic survival. The experience of various NGOs who provide services for street children was that the children were often vary reluctant to come forward and make reports of sexual exploitation, either because a negative response was anticipated from the system or because the child feels that there exists no choice. Welfare and NGOs will thus have to provide adequate and attractive alternative care and rehabilitation for street children.

A member of the ANC was concerned that the law did not cater for attempted rape. He felt that where there was no penetration, it should nevertheless be treated as a serious offence where the person should be convicted of attempted rape.

Ms van Niekerk said that one could in fact be charged with attempted sexual penetration. The legal issues of proving attempted sexual offences would be dealt with by the second discussion document on process and procedure. The removal of some of the cautionary rules which make conviction so difficult would be looked at. The issues relating to sexual offences in the absence of medical evidence would be dealt with as well. It was pointed out that in pre- pubertal children there was new evidence that after penetration it was possible for the hymen to heal.

A committee member referred to the criminalising of "stalking". He was concerned about the definition of stalking since he felt that there was nothing wrong with being attracted to someone and following that person out of admiration. For example if he saw a beautiful woman who went around a corner, he may want to follow her to get a good look. He said that this should not warrant a charge being laid against him.

Ms van Niekerk said that the issue of stalking would be the subject of a separate investigation since it did not deal only with sexual issues. Everyone enjoyed looking at something which was attractive. Stalking involved the situation where someone was made to feel unsafe and at risk.

Dr Mbulawa (ANC) referred to sexual offences in the family involving very young children. The justice process is that these children first had to go for psychological assessment, then into the courts and she had a problem with this when the children were under five.

Ms van Niekerk said that the Commission had looked at protecting young child from the criminal justice system, from repeated questioning and at ways in which children could give evidence in a less stressful environment. A more inquisitorial procedure was envisaged for children giving evidence and for victims of sexual crimes generally, but final recommendations had not yet been made in this regard. Other assistance to the child in court was also being considered such as the use of the intermediary system, video-taped evidence and support to victims while giving evidence. In this regard available resources had to be considered. Nevertheless, these recommendations had to be weighed up against the rights of the accused provided for in the Constitution.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) referred to the executive summary where it spoke about the enactment of a statutory provision called child molestation aimed at prohibiting sexual acts with children below 16 years of age. She wanted to know whether the current Section 14 of the Sexual Offences Act did not in fact do this already and whether consent was used as a defence where the child has consented.

Ms van Niekerk said that the existing act did protect children under 16 to some extent. The new provision was broader in that it included not only penetrative intercourse but also, "a sexual act" which was more broadly defined. Secondly she said the reality was that children became sexually active at an early age and the act was trying not to criminalise this, since she asked: "if a girl and a boy, both 15 years old had consensual sex, who would be charged? One of them, both of them or none?" What the act did want to do was protect these children from being caught up in exploitative acts involving older adults. There was a certain measure of protection in the present legislation but which was however not adequate.

Ms E Ghandi (ANC) said that there had been highly publicised incidents of child pornography. She said that the publicity given to such incidents by the media could be extremely harmful to the child and its family. She wanted to know whether the bill could perhaps prohibit the publishing of such stories.

Ms van Niekerk agreed and said that children could often be identified without having their names actually published, which could result in them being targeted for further abuse.

Ms Ghandi commented that in terms of sentencing, rehabilitation was quite important.

Ms van Niekerk said that rehabilitation was an enormous concern to many members of the project committee. She said that there was an expert on the committee, Ms Ntombeni, who worked with sexual offenders in the Correctional Services Department. She worked with the committee on developing ideas around this.

Ms Ghandi asked whether homosexuals were being held together with other prisoners or separately since she was concerned that these homosexuals could be exploiting other prisoners.

Ms van Niekerk admitted that this had not been considered but felt that this could be a very important issue to look at in terms of the protection of persons of the same gender where someone was convicted of sexual offences against someone of the same gender. She said that it was the practice to keep youths and adults together in single gender units, which could open the door to exploitation of younger prisoners.

Ms Ghandi wanted to know whether the Commission was considering any special sentences for gang rape and for serial rapists.

Ms van Niekerk said the Commission would be looking at whether or not there needed to be special sentencing for gang rape and serial rapists. It was however very difficult to obtain a conviction for gang rape.

Ms C Ramotsamai (ANC) referred to the executive summary and congratulated the Commission on removing the derogatory words "idiots and imbeciles" and replacing them with a reference to mentally impaired persons.
She asked when the Commission thought the legislation would be ready.

Ms van Niekerk said that she was hoping that it would be passed by Parliament by September 2000.

Ms Ramotsamai was concerned that, with regard to deaf victims, court interpreters sometimes did not use the same terms that the child had been brought up to use which resulted in the whole case being destroyed and being thrown out of court.

Ms van Niekerk said that interpretation would be dealt with in terms of all children including those with special needs. She said that a special representation had been made to the committee with recommendations around these issues and they were trying to integrate these recommendations into their work so that the needs of disabled victims were not ignored.

Dr E Jassat (ANC) was concerned with Ms van Niekerk's suggestion that there should be more lenient sentences for intra-family offenders because the victim may anticipate and fear that long term imprisonment for the offender could cause a breakdown in the family structure and an economic crisis where the offender was the breadwinner. He felt that there were other ways of confronting these problems and suggested that Welfare should provide a safety net for victims. He insisted that these perpetrators were people with warped minds and, without adequate punishment, they would not desist from doing what they were doing. There had to be deterrent sentences for such perpetrators.

Ms van Niekerk said that they were not necessarily looking at more gentle provisions for the offender who abuses within the family, but rather sentencing provisions or criminal justice processes that make it easier for a child to come forward. Comparative research was being done in relation to the issue of diversion for first offenders where there has been no physical force used, dependant upon the acknowledgement of the act and of responsibility since this would free the child of having to testify in court against someone they may love very much. It was pointed out that a child in some cases felt a strong emotional tie with a person exploiting them. This was a sad reality that had to be considered. She said that the fact that the child care support grant stopped at the age of 7 years was an issue that has exposed many children to sexual exploitation and leaves many children in a position in which they cannot report an offender who is supporting them. Sometimes closing your mind off to being sexually abused but having food in your tummy is a choice that children had to make. She challenged the Welfare Portfolio Committee to do something about this, since it has increased the vulnerability of children many times over.

The Chairperson, Mr E Saloogee (ANC), said that this would not come as a challenge to the Committee since it had already raised this problem with the Department.

Dr Jassat also referred to the healing of the hymen in pre-pubertal children. He suggested that because the hymen generally did not heal after puberty, consideration should be given to reparative surgery, at government expense, in the case of rape victims.

Ms van Niekerk said that surgery to heal the hymen had not been considered but said that it would be noted for research within the project committee.

Professor L Mbadi (UDM) asked whether Ms van Niekerk, during her investigations, had come across incidents of a man being raped by a woman.

Ms van Niekerk said that she had. Generally there had been an increase in the incidence of female adolescent sexual offending - where young girls involve younger children in coercive sexual behaviour.

Ms Rajbali (ANC) wanted to know about the programmes introduced in schools as well as the community's involvement with the Commission. Were the various women's groups being adequately used in terms of creating awareness around the issues under discussion.

Ms van Niekerk said that in this regard recommendations should be made to the NGO sector and the Department of Education.

Mr M Masutha (ANC) said that there were clearly difficulties with the situation where the breadwinner was also the offender. He expected more innovative ways of punishment which would not affect these offenders' jobs but which at the same time would ensure that they would be sufficiently humiliated so as to serve as an adequate deterrent. He felt that community service was one example. The state would still receive their taxes and would not have to pay for their upkeep in jail.

Ms van Niekerk said that sentencing for sexual offenders would be looked at very broadly. The project committee agreed with him entirely that other options had to be explored. Wherever possible a person had to be in a position to maintain their responsibilities to their family and pay taxes. Issues well beyond imprisonment and suspended sentences were being looked at. They were looking at diversion, community correction and issues and conditions relating to parole. They were very interested in the present public debate on castration. She invited Mr Masutha and all the members of the committee to forward any suggestions on solutions in this regard to the committee.

Ms TJ Tshivhase (ANC) referred to infant rape and suggested that these rapists' names be published in newspapers.

Ms van Niekerk said that infant rape was unspeakably reprehensible. The committee would in this instance look at special provisions in relation to sentencing. She said that there was a great difficulty with such young children who could not even articulate what has happened to them since they could not even identify the offender and as a result, most such cases do not even get to court. There is no restriction on exposing a sexual offender's name in the media unless he has offended against someone who is related to him and the victim can be identified through the offender's name. The focus was thus on the protection of the victim. They would encourage the media to publish the names of sexual offenders as long as the victim is not exposed.

Ms P Cupido (DP) wanted to know what kind of protection was afforded to children who decided, via the school or other means, to report intra-family sexual offences.

Ms van Niekerk said that this was an issue which had been researched and would be seen in the discussion paper on process and procedure. It was recommended that children should not be removed from home if the offender could instead be removed. This was because there were sadly many cases of abuse in foster homes and other institutions as well. It was also traumatic for a child to be removed from its home. This was not a rule cast in stone . The best interests of the child were the major consideration. These recommendations would tie up with the provisions that the project committee on the Child Care Act is going to develop around removal and conditional placement of children. This was seen as an important issue.

Ms N Tsheole (ANC) said that she knew of a Northern Province clinical psychologist who has dealt with many cases of incest and was in fact doing her PHD research on this issue. Ms Tsheole felt that this person could give the Law Commission some information on her findings on this issue which could be of assistanc especially in regard to breaking the cultural barriers and secrecy around incest in these communities.

Ms van Niekerk said that she would appreciate receiving the name and contact details of this psychologist particularly since the Northern Province was quite rural. She said it was difficult to get good research relating to rural child victims in this field.

Ms Ramotsamaai said that the lengthy legal process where cases took so long to be heard was a problem since children could forget the details of what had happened. She wanted to know what was being done in this regard.
Ms van Niekerk said that the issue of the lengthy legal process had been researched with much concern. Compulsory time limits were considered but it was realised that this may in fact benefit the offender more than the victim. This was because many offenders and legal representatives would simply spin out remands using the bill of rights. Once the time limit expired, the only option would be to withdraw the charge and the person would walk free. They were looking at a monitoring system which fast-tracked cases involving vulnerable witnesses, without having a time limit in order to prevent offenders taking advantage of this.

Ms Ramotsamaai also asked what could be done when some mothers actually encouraged the sexual abuse of their own children.

Ms van Niekerk said that when a child reported this perhaps at school, the issue of mandated reporting was being looked at. This was already in the Child Care Act and in the Domestic Violence Act and they were looking to consolidate this in the Process and Procedure Draft Bill.

Mr Masutha said that a child who gives evidence in court was easy prey to a highly sophisticated advocate under cross-examination. As a result many cases do not even get prosecuted. He wanted to know how the Law Commission hoped to overcome it, if at all.

Ms van Niekerk said that it was true that children were generally limited in their ability to tolerate a cross-examination process without confusion and distress and agreed that this was a major reason for many cases being withdrawn. One of the solutions being considered was that the child's evidence be heard in inquisitorial proceedings where cross-examination could be limited or even done away with completely. This process would ideally be done in chambers or in a protected environment.

Mr Saloogee raised the issue that different departments dealt with different aspects of sexual offences relating to children and adults.

Ms van Niekerk said that they were in the process of making recommendations on the adoption of inter-sectoral protocols. These would involve the different departments, including NGOs working in this field, entering into contractual arrangements collectively to ensure that sexual offences are dealt with in the most positive and productive manner. She said that in all the provinces they did have protocols for the management of child abuse and neglect. This was a recent development and it was hoped that it would either be re-developed or extended to all sexual offences.

The meeting was concluded.

Appendix 1
South African Law Commission
Discussion Paper 85
Project 107

The South African Law Commission was requested to investigate sexual offences by and against children and to make recommendations to the Minister of Justice for the reform of this particular branch of the law. A Project Committee was appointed and an issue paper on sexual offences against children was published for general information and comment in May 1997. The issue paper was workshopped extensively.

It became clear during the course of the investigation that any proposed changes to the law relating to sexual offences will have a far-reaching effect on the position not only of children but of adults as well. As a result and because of various requests the Commission decided to expand the scope of the investigation to include sexual offences against adults. The investigation was subsequently renamed 'sexual offences'.

As part of an incremental approach the Commission is releasing this discussion paper on the substantive law relating to sexual offences, the first of a three-part series, for general information and comment. The second discussion paper will deal with matters of process and procedure, while the third will address the controversial issues of adult commercial sex work (prostitution) and adult pornography. Both these discussion papers should be released later this year.

This discussion paper contains a draft Bill which embodies some progressive recommendations for the reform of the substantive law relating to sexual offences. However, the discussion paper does not contain the final views of the Commission and comments and submissions are invited.
The essence of the recommendations proposed in this discussion paper is (references to paragraph numbers refer to the full discussion paper):
° In order to ensure that South Africa complies with its obligations in terms of international law an audit should be undertaken. Such an audit should include an overview of other international instruments not yet signed or ratified by South Africa. On the basis of such an audit an informed decision can be made as to what other instruments South Africa needs to sign, ratify or accede to protect children and women more effectively (par 2).
° The Commission does not recommend amendments to the Constitution, including section 28 on the rights of children, despite the criticisms raised as to the vagueness of certain key phrases and concepts. The Commission is of the opinion that the general and specific constitutional protection accorded to children is flexible enough to allow the court to interpret legislation in 'the best interests of the child'. As gender-based discrimination goes beyond the parameters of violence against women per se, the Commission believes it is best addressed in general equality legislation (para & 2.3.11).
° A set of guiding principles is considered imperative for the formulation of both the substantive and procedural law with regard to sexual offences. Such a set of guiding principles for children is proposed. The Commission also recommends that the principles be developed further to encompass both an adult and child focus and suggests some options for what can be done with such a comprehensive set of principles once developed (par 2.4).
° The Commission recommends using the criminal law as the appropriate mechanism to address sexual exploitation, abuse and violence of women and children in particular (par 3.2).
° The Commission does not recommend the repeal of all the common law sexual offences. However, the Commission does propose the adoption of one comprehensive new sexual offences act. Matters of process and procedure (the subject matter of the next discussion paper) should form an integral part of this comprehensive new sexual offences act (par 3.3).
° In terms of our common law, rape is committed by a man having intentional unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent. Non-consensual anal or oral penetration does not constitute rape in common law, although it can constitute indecent assault. Sexual intercourse is restricted to the penetration of the vagina by the penis. The Commission proposes the repeal of the common law offence of rape and its replacement with a new gender-neutral statutory offence. The essence of the Commission's proposal on rape centres around 'unlawful sexual penetration'. The Commission says sexual penetration is unlawful per se when it occurs under coercive circumstances. Coercive circumstances include the application of force, threats, the abuse of power or authority, the use of drugs, etc. Sexual penetration is defined very broadly by the Commission to include the penetration 'to any extent whatsoever' by a penis, any object or part of the body of one person, or any part of the body of an animal into the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person. Simulated sexual intercourse is also included under the Commission's definition of 'sexual penetration' (par
° In terms of the Commission's recommendations oral, anal or vaginal penetration or even simulated sexual intercourse under coercive circumstances can constitute rape. This means that both men and women can be rape victims and perpetrators.
° To provide better protection for children, the Commission proposes that the sexual penetration of any child below the age of 12 years should constitute rape.
° In terms of the current definition of rape, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the fact that the woman did not consent to sexual intercourse. In the public perception, this creates the impression that the victims of rape are put on trial to prove the absence of consent to sexual intercourse on their part. In terms of the Commission's recommendations, absence of consent to sexual intercourse will no longer be an element of the offence. The accused can obviously still raise consent to sexual intercourse as justification for his or her unlawful conduct, but will carry the burden of proof in this regard (par
° In the Commission's draft Bill a provision is included that 'no marriage or other relationship' shall be a defence against a charge of rape. This makes it clear that a husband can be convicted of raping his wife (para and 3.12).
° In the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality case the Constitutional Court declared the common law offence of sodomy unconstitutional. The Commission's proposals on a gender-neutral definition of rape also cover anal penetration under coercive circumstances.
° The Commission does not recommend the repeal of the common law offence of incest. However, in order to make the offence gender-neutral and to expand the ambit of sexual intercourse, it is recommended that the proposed statutory definition of an 'act of sexual penetration' be made applicable to the common law offence of incest (par 3.6).
° The Commission does not recommend the repeal of the common law offence of bestiality (par 3.8.2), but does propose the inclusion of a statutory provision in a new sexual offences act to cover forced or manipulated sexual activity between persons (children and adults alike) and animals (par
° The Commission does not express any opinion on whether the common law crime of unnatural sexual offences still exists and what sexual conduct it prohibits (par 3.8.3).
° The Commission does not recommend the repeal of the common law offence of crimen iniuria or the enactment of a special form of statutory crimen iniuria which contains an element of sexual impropriety (par 3.9).
° The Commission does not recommend the codification of the common law offence of indecent assault as this offence is particularly flexible and adequately covers a wide variety of acts. It is also a competent verdict on an number of offences and is gender- neutral (par 3.10).
° The Commission recommends the enactment of a statutory provision called 'child molestation' aimed at prohibiting sexual acts with children below 16 years of age. Consent by a child under 16 years of age to any sexual act is not a defence to a charge under this provision. This proposal goes much further than the present statutory rape provisions of section 14 of the Sexual Offences Act (par
° As most cases of intra-familial sexual abuse take place repeatedly and over long periods of time, child victims often have difficulty recalling precise details of the time and place when and where the alleged offences are said to have occurred. As a consequence, state prosecutors sometimes accept a guilty plea to a single incident of sexual abuse well knowing that the incident was not an isolated one. It is for this reason that the Commission recommends the enactment of a statutory provision in the new sexual offences act to make the persistent sexual abuse of a child a separate offence (par 4.2).
° The Commission recommends a complete prohibition on the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the new sexual offences act (par 3.7.8). Commercial sexual exploitation includes child prostitution, child pornography and trafficking in children. The Commission is convinced that the commercially sexually exploited child is a victim in need of care and protection and not a criminal (par As a consequence, the Commission specifically proposes that any person who commits a sexual act with a child for financial or other reward, favour or compensation be guilty of an offence; that any person who invites, persuades or induces a child to allow any person to commit a sexual act with a child for financial or other reward, favour or compensation be guilty of an offence; and that any person who participates in, or is involved in, the commercial sexual exploitation of a child be guilty of an offence.
° The Commission also proposes to make it an offence to keep a brothel for child prostitution; to offer or engage a child for commercial sexual exploitation; to facilitate or allow the commercial sexual exploitation of a child; and to receive consideration from the commercial sexual exploitation of a child.
° The Commission is also of the opinion that the trafficking in or transporting of a child from the place where the child is usually resident to another destination, whether within the country or abroad, for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, constitutes commercial sexual exploitation and should therefore be a crime (par 3.7.11).
° Although the Commission supports a total prohibition of child pornography, it nevertheless does not include provisions on child pornography in the new sexual offences act. The prohibition on child pornography is appropriately placed in the Films and Publication Act and the Commission therefore does not recommend any legislative amendments at this stage pending the review of the Films and Publications Act (par 3.7.12).
° In order to combat child sex tourism and the other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, the Commission believes that it is necessary to provide for effective national legislation which has extra-territorial application (par 3.7.13). The Commission therefore proposes to give extra-territorial jurisdiction to the new sexual offences act on the basis that the wrongdoer is a citizen or permanent resident of the Republic. Legal entities incorporated or doing business in South Africa are also included in the scope of persons who can be prosecuted under the new sexual offences act (par 3.7.14).
° The Commission also proposes certain auxiliary measures to ensure the eradication of the commercial exploitation of children. Amongst these are the withdrawal of operating licences of any travel agent or bureau found to have organised or planned organised sex tours within the borders of South Africa or abroad, the deportation after serving his/her sentence of all foreign nationals for committing a sexual offence in South Africa, and the withdrawal of the passport of any South African citizen convicted of a sexual offence while abroad (par 3.7.14).
° While recognising the fact that mentally impaired persons do have sexual rights, the Commission nevertheless recommends the enactment of specific provisions to deal with sexual offences against mentally impaired persons. The Commission proposes to use the term 'mentally impaired' instead of the derogatory words 'idiot' and 'imbecile' presently used in the Sexual Offences Act (par The term 'mentally impaired person' is defined in the draft Bill as a person affected by any mental disability irrespective of its cause, whether temporary or permanent, to the extent that such person is unable to appreciate the nature of a sexual act, or is unable to resist the commission of such an act, or is unable to communicate his or her unwillingness to participate in such an act.
° The Commission proposes a complete overhaul of the present Sexual Offences Act, 1957. The Commission recommends, for instance, that the current section 18 of the Sexual Offences Act, which makes it an offence to use drugs for purposes of defilement, and which can offer protection against exploitation in circumstances where the actions of the perpetrator would not amount to rape or attempted rape, nor to one of the other sexual offences, is necessary and should be included in a new sexual offences act (par On the other hand, the Commission does not recommend the retention of the current section 18A of the Sexual Offences Act (which prohibits the manufacture, sale or supply of articles which are intended to be used to perform an unnatural sexual act) in a new sexual offences act (par
° The Commission recommends that cultural and religious practices harmful to children should be prohibited in child care legislation and not in the proposed new sexual offences act (par 3.14).
° In the light of the research undertaken by the Project Committee on HIV/AIDS on harmful HIV-related behaviour and the compulsory HIV testing of persons arrested for having committed sexual offences, no proposals concerning the criminalising of harmful HIV-related behaviour and the HIV testing of persons arrested for committing sexual offences are made. The Commission, however, does recognise the strong public demand for the provision of HIV post-exposure prophylactic treatment to victims of sexual violence and will deal with this particular aspect in a subsequent discussion paper on process and procedural issues (par 4.4).
° The Commission recognises that a clear need exists for specific legislation criminalising stalking (or harassment) and recommends that a specific investigation be conducted in this regard (par 4.5).
° The Commission does not recommend the inclusion of provisions on sexual harassment in a new sexual offences act. The Commission is of the opinion that adequate legal remedies exist by means of which sexual harassment in the workplace can be addressed (par 4.6).
° The Commission recommends the enactment of a new statutory offence to criminalise compelled sexual acts. This will result in the criminalisation of the actions of a person who compels another person to engage in sexual acts with that person, a third person, or the compelled person himself or herself (par 4.7).
° The Commission does not recommend the introduction of legislation to prohibit female genital mutilation at this stage. The Commission invites comment on this issue (par 4.3).


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