The Definition of Rape and Consent

The new South African law around rape came into effect in December 2007. This law is called the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act, No. 32 of 2007.
Important Features of the Sexual Offences act:

  • The age of consent for both men and women is now 16 years
  • Rape victims must get anti-retroviral drugs to prevent them being infected with HIV
  • Rape victims may ask the court to test alleged rapists for HIV
  • All sexual crimes are included in one law
  • A number of new sexual crimes, particularly those affecting children and people with mental disabilities, have been created
  • All forms of sexual abuse or exploitation are crimes
  • Both men and women are considered to be victims and perpetrators of rape
  • A National Register of Sex Offenders has been established that prohibits people who have been convicted of sexual offences against children and/or people with mental disabilities from working with either of these two groups.

What is the definition of Rape?

Rape is an act of Sexual Penetration of a victim, without their consent. Rape occurs when

  • Someone inserts their genital organs into the mouth, anus or genital organs of a victim
  • Any part of someone’s body, such as a finger, goes into the anus or genital organs of the victim
  • Any object, like a stick or a bottle is put into the anus or genital organs of the victim
  • The genital organs of an animal are put into the mouth of the victim

Compelled Rape occurs when one person forces another to sexually penetrate each other someone else against their will. An example of compelled rape would be when a gang breaks into a couple’s home and forces them to have sex while members of the gang watch.

Sex acts become crimes when they are performed without the permission (consent) of the person they are performed on. People may not use their marriage as an excuse to rape their partners.

You have not consented to a sex-act if you are

  • Intimidated, forced or threatened in any way, through violence or threats of violence against you or someone you love, or damage to your property
  • Compelled by someone who abuses their power or authority, for instance if someone tells you that you will lose your job if you do not have sex with them
  • Lied to by a doctor or other health-worker who tells you that a sex act is part of a physical examination, or is necessary for your mental or physical health
  • Asleep
  • Unconscious
  • Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol
  • A child under the age of 12
  •  A person with a mental disability

For more information on Sexual Offences, click here