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Bringing justice closer to the people

Written by Bathandwa Mbola

The new Sexual Offences Court in Bethlehem, Free State, will go a long way in providing muchneeded protection to survivors of sexual crimes in the area.

The new court will also help boost the community’s confidence in the criminal justice processes.

The dedicated Sexual Offences Court - located at the Bethlehem Magistrate’s Court - was opened by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha recently.

Community members hope the court will help victims, who are often have to deal with long delays before cases are finalised.

Petronela Mekoa, 43, said the real trauma for rape survivors was enduring lengthy court process.

She shared her experience of supporting a rape survivor through normal court proceedings.

“It was very difficult to testify even for her as an adult. There were males in the courtroom - from the magistrate, the policemen… and having to relive the incident in such an environment was embarrassing for the victim,” said Mekoa.

Her hope is that the dedicated court would reduce trauma for victims, and make them feel more protected.

Thabiso Mofokeng, 28, said the court should be adequately staffed and sustainable to make a significant impact on the levels of violence against women in the area.

“I hope it will make a difference, taking into account the number of convictions of rapes we hear of in the area. I also hope it will improve the skills of court personnel, which has contributed to the efficient prosecution and adjudication of some cases,” he said.

Another community member, Mimiki Mphuthu, 37, said the court would ensure that perpetrators were put behind bars.