Rape accused will have to take the test
Police in Limpopo have decided to test all people charged with rape for HIV/Aids – a move they think will prevent would-be rapists from carrying out the crime.
Limpopo detectives will now be expected to approach their local magistrate for permission to test all rape accused for HIV/Aids.
If the person charged with rape tests positive for the virus, and if police can prove an accused was aware of his HIV status, he may also be charged with murder or attempted murder.
Limpopo police spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the police invoked a controversial clause of the Sexual Offences Act of 2007 in the hope that it would deter potential rapists from “going all the way and raping”.
“There is a law that gives us the right to do that. Not only us, but it also empowers rape victims to request the courts to have the perpetrators tested. If somebody is found to be HIV- positive, we will add a case of murder or attempted murder. We will make sure we comply with all the necessary procedures,” said Mulaudzi.
He said police had already been given instructions and know what is expected of them.
“We are testing each and every person charged with rape. It is already happening and we have tested some people in Tzaneen already,” he said, adding the accused could refuse, but should they be found guilty, their refusal could lead to more years in jail.
The move, said Mulaudzi, was prompted by statistics showing that since the beginning of the year, 121 rape cases have been reported in the province.
“A murder charge will be imposed on a serial rapist whose victims have died due to HIV related complications. The statistic is awful and the police have vowed not to sit down and fold arms”.
Women rights groups welcomed the move, saying it would help an increasing scourge in the province.
Nonkululeko Khumalo, spokesman for the People Opposing Women Abuse said: “We applaud the action taken by the police in Limpopo and we hope that this sends a strong message to the rapists out there. We also hope that other provinces follow suit as this is a countrywide problem and not just a problem in Limpopo”.
Independent researcher and well-known activist Lisa Vetten said the move did have potential to add value in the fight against rape.
“Compulsory testing is allowed, but usually it is at the request of the victim. The police are allowed to test perpetrators if the testing will add value to the investigation. The magistrate will normally grant the application if there is a prima facie evidence that there was sexual contact. It should be done within 90 days of the alleged rape”.
She said she knows of a case in which the prosecutors asked for a convicted rapist to be tested before he was sentenced for the crime.
“He tested positive and he got a life sentence”.
However, she said it becomes tricky when the police want to add murder or attempted murder charges.
“It will be difficult to prove if the accused knew that he was positive when the crime occurred”.
But deputy executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, Dr Francois Venter, said it was not clear how it would help.
“It is unclear how muddling the whole issue around HIV adds anything, or how this kind of language would act as a deterrent. When the Limpopo police demonstrate an adequate investigation and prosecution service, I’ll feel much better. Rape is an appalling enough crime – we don’t need it muddied with complicated HIV-related attempted murder charges”.