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Firstly, it is vital to understand what is meant by the term ‘sexual violence’.

This essay will work within the World Health Organisation’s definition which regards sexual violence as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, but not limited to home and work”South Africa’s democratic constitution of 1994 (introduced in 1996) was very advanced for its time ensuring equal rights for all, promising considerable change after the apartheid.

The constitution incorporated one of the most progressive sex offence acts in the world, inclusive of marital rape, consensual sex acts involving a minor and restrictions in the making of pornography.

Rape was seen to be a man having unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent.

This is shown by high unemployment, poverty, unequal land distribution and worryingly high rates of sexual violence against women.

This essay will focus on the latter subject of sexual violence, showing whilst legislation is sound, there are several cultural barriers to overcome, for example the influence of traditional tribal cultures and mistrust of the police arising from the apartheid era.

Whilst many cultures have a patriarchal structure, Wright highlights that Zulu society incorporates ideological controls which , limiting them to the traditional roles of mother, wife, daughter, accepting themselves as ‘second class citizens’.

The realisation of the rights promised in the constitution is limited for several reasons, such as lack of political will and cultural beliefs.Furthermore in 2007, changes were made to the Sexual Offences Act to broaden the definition of sexual violations and rape itself, including ‘direct or indirect contact’ such as the mouth of one person upon another person’s genital organs (for example, forced oral sex) (Department of Justice 2007, Ch2).Whilst legislation is strong and sets the basis for good protection of citizens, (Anderson 2000, 819).In 1999, changes were made to include sexual penetration in coercive circumstances, including force, threats, abuse of power or authority.In addition, penetration by other body parts, such as fingers, and objects were also included in the new definition (Jewkes and Abrahams 2002, 1232).

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