Data collection on gender-based, LGBTQ+ crimes ‘subpar’

Research showed that 88% of crimes against the LGBTQ+ community go unreported or unrecorded, said the director of Access Chapter 22, Steve Letsike.

Blind spots in South Africa’s data on gender-based crimes and those against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community mean government is not making well-informed decisions to deal with it, experts say.

The recently released national crime statistics show sexual offences increased 5.1% to 4,060 recorded cases. The bulk were rape cases, which increased by 200 cases to 3,501 cases.

But according to gender activist and researcher, Lisa Vetten, South Africa’s data collection was subpar to the point of being unreliable in providing a sufficiently informative basis for policy development, especially regarding gender-based violence.

And it was not just the compilation of statistics that was the problem, but also their use and interpretation.

“Last week, we were deeply upset about the murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, but what we have not been doing is looking at the police statistics, showing that from 2012 and 2013, the murder rate has been going up.

“We are not asking what happened from 2011 and 2013 and 2015 that was producing an upward trajectory,” said Vetten.

“What we are getting is people calling for the death penalty and chemical castration, but that money could be put to good use doing proper research to understand what exactly is going on. We are trying to develop interventions, but we don’t understand what the problems actually are.”

Vetten said the last official report into the rate of unreported cases of gender-based violence, for instance, was released 22 years ago, while independently collected data was reported in 2009, creating a large information gap in tracking gender-based violence.

Pending legislation on hate crimes were blocking data collection on crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, according to director of Access Chapter 22, Steve Letsike.

While anecdotal evidence and the rate at which these crimes were reported to nongovernmental organisations showed a worrying upward trajectory in these crimes, there was a lack of political will to record these cases as hate crimes and invest in finding ways to deal with them.

“We have actually seen research that showed that 88% of crimes against the LGBTQ+ community go unreported or unrecorded. “

One of the reasons for this is when investigating officers do not look at hate or bias as possible motive if the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is known,” said Letsike.

Another reason the stories of hate crimes against this community went untold was that the criminal justice system still harboured bias against complainants from the LGBTQ+ community.

“We still have a very high level of secondary victimisation where police themselves will victim-blame or intimidate a person for instance, and ask ‘are you a boy or a girl?’. These are the things that discourage victims from reporting these cases.”


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