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Spotlight Series: HIV Stigma and Discrimination
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International News

South Africa's Tougher Laws on Rape Go Into Effect in One of World's Hardest-Hit Countries

December 14, 2007

The South African Justice Ministry said today the Sexual Offenses Amendment Act, which goes into effect on Sunday, will help the country "fight the scourge of sexual offenses head-on."

South Africa, often called the "rape capital of the world," reported more than 50,000 rapes last year, or almost 150 per day. The country has a rate of 114 rapes per 100,000 people, compared with the US rate of 32 rapes per 100,000, according to police figures.

The new law aims to give greater protection to victims of sexual crimes. The country's definition of rape in the past was narrow and outdated. For example, sexual attacks against children were often classified as indecent assault, even though young victims are often targeted due to the myth that sex with a child can rid an infected person of HIV.

Now, tougher measures will protect children and the mentally disabled from sexual exploitation and child pornography. A register of sexual offenders will be started so that schools and other institutions dealing with children can screen job candidates.

In addition, sexual penetration with objects other than a penis will be classified as rape, which usually carries a life sentence, instead of sexual assault, for which there are lesser sentences. Also, male-on-male sexual assault will now be considered rape.

The new law states that rape victims are entitled to apply for a court order to compel the alleged offender to submit to an HIV test. Victims will also be eligible for free medication immediately after the rape to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. However, because of legal complexities, the provisions on HIV testing will not go into effect until March.

Back to other news for December 2007

Adapted from:
Associated Press
12.14.2007; Clare Nullis

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV Prevention in South Africa