Women have a range of rights in relation to sexual violence, including the right not to have acts of sexual violence committed against them. The state and individuals have duties or obligations that they owe to women, including the duty to follow certain legal procedures when an act of sexual violence is committed against them. The state has a legal duty to protect women from violence and to take the necessary steps to punish the offender who committed an act of sexual violence against them.
Many women have approached the Women’s Legal Centre for assistance and they have learnt that women are often not aware of their rights or do not know what to do when their rights are contravened. This lack of awareness has led to women choosing not to report violence and ultimately offenders are not arrested, convicted and punished.
The purpose of this booklet is to inform women of their rights in order to empower them to exercise their rights and to prevent further acts of violence from being committed against them and other women. If more women stand up for their rights this may reduce the many occurrences of violence against women in South Africa. It is aimed at specifically informing adult women of their rights and not children (a child is any person under the age of 18 years). It is accordingly not drafted for children to understand and does not cover many of the rights that are relevant to children.