Understanding barriers and opportunities to the use of medico-legal evidence in the prosecution of sexual violence in South Africa
Crime statistics are high in South Africa, especially those relating to sexual violence, including rape and sexual assault, yet convictions of sexual violence cases are low. One particular challenge in the criminal justice process is the taking, documenting, analysis and presentation of medico-legal evidence from a survivor of sexual violence. A range of barriers to the use of DNA evidence in the prosecution of sexual violence cases have been identified, including delays in analysis and poor completion of documentation. Much remains to be learnt about how the system currently functions to take, manage and analyse medico-legal evidence for the prosecution of sexual violence cases in South Africa. A clearer picture of the gaps and barriers to the effective use of medico-legal evidence will support advocacy for improvements in the system and recommendations regarding the types of changes required.
This project provides baseline evidence for Tshwaranag Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC) and the AIDS Foundation of South Africa (AFSA) on the perceived and actual weaknesses and strengths of the medico-legal process in the prosecution of sexual violence in four provinces of South Africa. The research shows understanding of the strengths, weakness and gaps in the medico-legal processes in the prosecution of sexual violence cases in South Africa; and makes recommendations for strengthening the process based on those findings. The project has the following critical research questions:
- What are the strengths and weaknesses in the medico-legal processes in the prosecution of sexual violence cases in South Africa as understood by those involved in the system?
- Are J88 forms completed in ways to support the medico-legal process effectively?
- Are there specific challenges and delays in the processing and use of DNA evidence in the medico-legal system for the prosecution of sexual violence?
The study is using in-depth interviews with key actors within the medico-legal system to understand challenges, alongside a comprehensive literature review.