Independant On-line, U-turn on Aids rape drugs, 30 January 2004

By Jeremy Michaels

Rape survivors will soon receive life-saving anti-retrovirals from the state.

In an apparent about-turn, the Justice Department has finally agreed to write into law a clause giving rape survivors certainty that they will have access to anti-retrovirals from state clinics within 72 hours of the attack.

However, the service will be available only at those clinics where anti-retrovirals are already being supplied. But as the state's capacity to provide anti-retrovirals increases, so will the treatment for rape victims.

ANC MP Johnny de Lange, chairperson of parliament's portfolio committee on justice, announced on Thursday that a clause guaranteeing rape survivors access to anti-retrovirals would be reinserted in the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill.

'We support this move'
The clause, drafted by the SA Law Commission, had been removed by the Justice Department last year.

The state's law advisers were "drafting a clause to basically say that people will be entitled to treatment within the 72 hours at a designated clinic", said De Lange. He added that state clinics currently offering anti-retroviral treatment would be listed in the legislation and that the list would be updated every six months.

"In some provinces, they don't have (treatment) sites yet, whereas in other provinces they have quite a few, and so every six months it will be reviewed and that will be added through proclamation."

Opposition parties welcomed the news as a victory over the ANC's earlier refusal to include the clause, but De Lange later vehemently denied that his party had done an about-turn.

The Law Commission's proposed clause had been removed by the Justice Department, as it was not one of their competencies, and was referred to the Health Department for guidance on the issue, De Lange said.

Democratic Alliance MP Sheila Camerer told the committee De Lange's announcement was "a huge improvement" on the Justice Department's earlier stance.

"We support this move, but obviously we would like to see what the clause says," Camerer said.

In a later interview, she said the original draft by the Law Commission clause "miraculously disappeared from the bill tabled before parliament".

"To add insult to injury, there was a provision in the bill that the state would provide rehabilitation for the rapist, and we said absolutely not. We were told that it was enough that there was a government policy in place," she said.

"There was a policy, but we felt that there should be a legal obligation because it's a matter of life and death. There will be a clause now to give the rape victim the right - that's the intention, but we haven't seen it yet."

However, De Lange said the intended clause would not give rape survivors any new rights, but give them certainty about where the treatment would be available.

This article was originally published on page 1 of The Star on January 30, 2004






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