Premier - Receives Briefing on Child Abuse - Repeats Calls for Sex Offenders Register
"Brutal, heartless criminals who commit acts of this nature should never again be allowed to see the light of day as free men or women." These were the words of Western Cape Premier, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, who today visited the Tygerberg Academic Hospital where 9-month-old 'baby M' receiving treatment following a savage rape at the weekend. "The rape of 'baby M' is an outrage against humanity, and another dark stain on the social fabric of our society, but what is even worse is that this is not an isolated incident. Our doctors and social workers confirm that babies of this age are subjected to child abuse on a daily basis, and that the cases which reach the media represent only the tip of the iceberg."
The Premier was speaking to members of the media after earlier having received a briefing from 'baby M's doctor and social workers. The Premier was also briefed by the TygerBear Social Work Unit for Traumatised Children and Families on the incidence of child and infant trauma.
"Childline has estimated that one in three girls and one in five boys are sexually abused before they reach the age of 18 in our country," said the Premier. "A recent national study by LoveLife confirmed that 65% of young South Africans are deeply worried about their own personal safety - with 62% who list fear of sexual or physical abuse as a serious concern. There is a silent war being waged against our children by the worst kinds of criminals, and it is past time for us to hit back."
It has been reported that from April 2002 to March 2003 there were 4 798 reported cases of child abuse in South Africa, of which 1258 cases were in the Western Cape. This represents an increase of over 70% on the 730 cases in the Western Cape from April 2001 to March 2002.
"The case of 'baby M' in particular also lends further weight to the arguments in favour of a register for sexual offenders," said the Premier. "With reports today that the suspect who has been arrested in this instance has a prior record of conviction for sexual assault of a child, it is clear that South Africa needs a more efficient system of public information about sex predators. Such a register should specify, at least, the current whereabouts and occupation of sexual offenders, who should be required by law to reregister with the police within 14 days of any move. Such a register would assist police in speeding up investigations , establishing additional legal grounds for holding known offenders, and act as a deterrent to sex offenders aware that their actions are being closely watched. The register should be made available to companies and organisations who employ workers in direct contact with children and other vulnerable groups - as well as to school authorities and community leaders. We know that this proposal is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice as part of the discussions around the new Sexual Offences Bill - in my opinion this cannot happen quickly enough."
Addressing other measures which should also be adopted the Premier added: "All spheres of government, the SAPS and the Justice Department must take hands to bring this fight to the criminals. More funds and personnel must be made available to the Child Protection Unit. When it comes to the courts, the Justice Department must ensure that the Sexual Offences Courts are running efficiently and are properly equipped to assist these victims with facilities like Closed-Circuit TV Cameras for traumatic testimony. It is also important for the DNA lab in the Forensic department of the SAPS in Pretoria to become more readily accessible - DNA testing and evidence is crucial for the successful prosecution of these criminals."
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