It is not fair or constitutional to give victims of sexual offences a time limit to report crimes, Sonke Gender Justice said as the Constitutional Court presides over a landmark case in South Africa.
It said everyone who has been sexually assaulted must be able to access the courts, regardless of the time that has lapsed between the occurrence of the incident and its reporting. The Constitutional Court reserved judgment in the case on Tuesday.
The organisation's Bafana Khumalo spoke to HuffPost SA on Tuesday, after the Constitutional Court heard a case seeking confirmation of a South Gauteng High Court order which lifted a 20-year "expiry date" on prosecuting sexual offences.
Access to the courts for victims of sexual assault should not have a time frame.
Section 18 of the of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) barred the right to institute a prosecution for sexual offences, other than rape, after 20 years had passed since the time of the offence.
The request that the section be declared unconstitutional was put before the High Court by eight people who claim to have been sexually assaulted by the now late billionaire, Sidney Frankel, over two decades ago. The Frankel 8, as they are also known, could not pursue criminal charges against him because of Section 18's time limit.
Judgment is reserved in #Levenstein v Frankel case on time limits for prosecuting sexual offences— CALS (@CALS_ZA) November 14, 2017
The Teddy Bear Clinic argued that the distinction between rape and sexual assault is arbitrary and unlawful, "because it fails to recognise that the nature of the harm of sexual assault is inherently comparable to that of rape and it fails to take cognisance that the nature of disclosure among adult survivors of sexual assault is complex and lengthy."
Khumalo added: "Access to the courts for victims of sexual assault should not have a time frame, so that those who committed such acts will face justice regardless of the time that has passed."
"We stand firmly behind victims of all forms of sexual assault, regardless of when they report it," Khumalo said. He added that the strength and courage it takes to speak out after sexual assault must never be taken lightly.
The Women's Legal Centre, a respondent before the ConCourt, also held that both child and adult survivors of all sexual offences have an unrestricted right to have these offences prosecuted, irrespective of the time that has lapsed between the incident occurring and the victim reporting.