Fellow: Unathi Mahlati
Grant Year: 2020
Location: Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa
Organization: Just Detention International-South Africa (JDI-SA)
Project title: Zero Tolerance: Implementing the Department of Correctional Services’ Policy to Address Sexual Abuse in South Africa’s Women’s Detention Facilities
Project summary: Women and LBTQ+ individuals face staggering levels of misogyny, bigotry, and sexual violence in South African prisons. In women’s facilities, inmates are subjected to daily sexual harassment and abuse, ranging from officials’ use of degrading language to abusive strip searches and rape. Historically, Department of Correctional Services (DCS) Officials have ignored such abuse, often viewing it as an intractable part of prison life. Sexual abuse in detention is preventable, and due to JDI-SA’s work over the last decade, DCS has approved the Policy to Address the Sexual Abuse of Inmates in DCS Facilities (Sexual Abuse Policy); unfortunately, the policy remains largely unimplemented. In order to institutionalize JDI-SA’s decade of work within the DCS and achieve robust implementation of the Sexual Abuse Policy, JDI-SA will advocate for the National Commissioner to approve the incorporation of sexual abuse prevention training into the standard warder training for all DCS warders across South Africa by September 2021. It is estimated that more than 4,300 incarcerated women and/or LBTQ+ individuals will benefit across the national prison system.