Government should provide rape victims with medical and legal assistance because medical and forensic evidence could be the only corroboration of such complaints, Parliament's justice committee heard yesterday.
This comes after a clause in the draft Sexual Offences Bill, which compels the state to pay all medical costs of rape survivors, has been put on the backburner until the cost implications for the state have been determined. Now it has been argued that the clause should be reinstated in the bill because the gathering of evidence through such a service might be the only way of gaining a conviction.
Lorna Martin, of the forensic medicine and toxicology division at the University of Cape Town, told the committee the medical management of rape survivors involves not only treating the rape survivor for sexually transmitted infections but involves a detailed medico-legal examination, which includes documentation of all injuries, both physical and genital, and the collection of all potential forensic evidence from the body of the complainant, including trace and biological evidence.
Martin suggested that many of the services needed to achieve this were already in provincial budgets, so it is clear that the provision of a treatment clause does not have the cost implications that were voiced as concerns by cabinet.
She recommended that victims of sexual assault be offered as soon as possible a medico-legal examination at a designated health-care facility. Requiring this by law would force the authorities to provide the service, she said. (Source: Wyndham Hartley Business Day, September 17, 2003)