The crime of rape in South Africa is defined by the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007 as any person who “unlawfully and intentionally commits an act of sexual penetration with a complainant without consent”. The statute also makes provision for compelled rape which is defined as any person who “who unlawfully and intentionally compels a third person without consent, to commit an act of sexual penetration with a complainant without the consent”. It should be noted that the definition of rape was not always gender-neutral and only since the inception of the amended act does it now include male and female victims.
Prosecution of a rape case follows the procedure set out in the Criminal Procedure Act in conjunction with the minimum sentencing guidelines as set out by legislation. The crime of aggravated rape could carry a life sentence if the accused is found guilty, whereas a first offence of rape carries a 10-year sentence.
Regarding victims of rape, there are numerous free counselling services available to them and the law lays out a very clear guide for treating them with the utmost human dignity and respect. Victims should not be shamed or made to feel unsafe for coming forward, and the legislature is moving to the point where victim rights are expanding.
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