The graph above is from the South African Department of Justice 2018/2019 annual report. Viewed in isolation, it looks like we're making positive headway in prosecuting sexual offences. But look closer and the cracks start showing.
- The fake news winner here is the actual graph. This visual is misleading on so many levels that even a math / data novice like me knew something was off. I could speak about the fact that there is no (vertical) y-axis – this would be the numbers or data points on the left-hand side. The most astonishing and obvious issue, however, is that the graph is slanted to make the numbers look like more than it is.
- The percentages are presented without actual figures. Here again, it seems like convictions – and by inference prosecutions – are increasing. In reality, the number of convictions at 74.4% - and by inference the number of prosecutions, are actually lower than the previous five years.
This is what the actual statistics for sexual offences really tell us:
- The 74.4% conviction rate for sexual offences presented by the Department of Justice is equivalent to 4724 convictions out of 6353 cases that made it to court.
- When cross referenced against sexual offences reported to police in 2018/2019, we see that only 6353 prosecutions out of 53 063 sexual offences reported to the police made it to trial. This means that out of overall sexual offences reported in 2018/2019, roughly 12% went to trial and 8.9% ended in conviction.
- The other 47 244 cases (without a verdict) remain unresolved for victims, with alleged perpetrators remaining free.
WHAT’S IN A FAKE?
There has been a global emphasis on tackling fake news over the past few years. The media itself is in crisis trying to clear up misinformation faster than it can be shared, but it seems like a losing battle. People are too slow to check – if they do – and too quick to share.
As a journalist, I’ve followed this trend, learned the tools, shared the truth, but have noted that the ‘fake news’ movement has been concentrated on politics, corruption and climate change. There are no eyes on gender issues, even though it is one area where misinformation has flourished for centuries – legally – for the majority of time. And I aim to tackle this.
HOW I RESIST: CIVIC ENGAGEMENT FOR GBV
My resistance too the form of a television show. I planned, pitched and launched The Womxn Show that takes a citizen-centered view of Gender Based Violence. The concept takes the focus off of direct offenders and turns the lens to our justice and social systems, along with systemic issues – like rape trials and conviction rates. The show looks at legislation and protection systems and, most of all, hopes to drive better transparency and accountability. I want women to know what their rights are and how to enforce them.
South Africa is often lauded as having some of the most progressive human rights legislation for women, and yet, it is worth nothing if women don’t know it exists. Women’s rights are human rights and as such, we need to find a way to increase citizen engagement and activism in the same way we do in other areas.
Image Credit: 2018/2019 Annual Report - Depart of Justice, South Africa
Producer: The Womxn Show
Cape Town, South Africa