Compensation for victims of sexual violence in South Africa : a human rights approach to remedial criminal compensation provisions

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The author questioned why state attorneys, prosecutors and magistrates/judges in South Africa rarely review the compensation concerns of sexual violence complainants and witnesses in criminal sentencing matters, and in quasi-criminal civil forfeiture proceedings, as is frequently done for other classes of complainants (namely, commercial crime complainants and victims of violent crime in general). A conclusion was reached, after conducting extensive research for this thesis, that offender and state compensation processes were sparingly utilized in cases of sexual violence, in part, due to institutional biases that resulted in discrimination. The above finding was substantiated by way of twenty-seven (27) interviews with criminal justice role-players, eight (8) court file case studies and forty-seven (47) victim surveys. The above subject matter is important because failures by criminal justice state role-players to review the compensation concerns of sexual violence victims, on account of biases, causes real harm to these vulnerable complainants. For example, research in this thesis confirmed that state and offender compensation can assist sexual violence complainants with their cultural obligations, court appearances and post-assault health expenses and to pre-empt compensation reviews on account of biases disrupts victims' post assault recoveries. Further, compensation can assist sexual violence complainants with security related expenses, including relocation costs, so as to avoid repeated victimization.

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