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General Overview

EICS Framework


Region of Reference

  • AfricaAfrica
  • AsiaAsia
  • AustraliaAustralia
  • EuropeEurope
  • North-AmericaNorth-America
  • South-AmericaSouth-America
  • WorldWorld


Sexual assault and rape are offences that occur when someone commits a sexual violation against another person. Rape is perhaps the most commonly recognised sexual offence, and most countries on the African continent have laws that prohibit rape. These laws commonly include the elements of penetration, without consent.

While countries across the continent define sexual assault differently, the offence requires that the perpetrator had the intention to commit the offence, and acted against the will of the victim. Comprehensive legal definitions (such as those in South Africa and Eswatini) include a range of behaviours under sexual assault, for example:

  • Direct or indirect contact between the sexual organs of one person and a body part of another person or an object. Examples may include groping someone’s breast, or (non-penetratively) touching someone’s vagina or penis

  • Direct or indirect contact between the mouth of one person and the genitals, mouth, or any other body part capable of sexual penetration, arousal, or sexual stimulation of another

  • Masturbation of one person by another, without their consent

The term ‘sexual violation’ is often not well understood, and society often minimises the severity of these behaviours. Women frequently struggle when they try to report sexual assault as criminal justice personnel does not believe that these offences are serious or warrant investigation and/or prosecution. In reality, victims may experience these violations as severely as they do penetrative sexual offences, and the consequences can be as significant and long-term. Some jurisdictions like South Africa and Botswana have gender-neutral definitions of rape (meaning that both men and women can be the victims and/or perpetrators of rape) while in other countries rape can only be perpetrated by a man against a woman. Consent (or the absence of consent) is a critical element of the offence of rape that is frequently not defined or is ambiguous, under the law which results in subjective interpretation and uneven implementation.

Unfortunately, despite increased attention to the problem of sexual assault, law reform on sexual violence in Africa has been uneven. While some countries on the continent have comprehensively reformed their law on sexual offences and defined these offences (for example, eSwatini in 2018, South Africa in 2007, Kenya in 2006, Lesotho in 2003) many other countries have opted to retain models that define sexual offences as part of their penal code or deal with them as common-law offences (such as indecent assault).

While responses to sexual violence have historically focused on criminal justice responses, evidence suggests that preventive interventions, coupled with a high-quality response from across the criminal justice, health, education, and welfare systems may be more effective. Centring the needs of survivors is widely accepted as the best practice in addressing sexual violence after an offence. This includes ensuring that survivors have access to compassionate, trauma-informed care and specialised services from properly trained practitioners. Services that are included in a comprehensive care model include:

  • Psychosocial support at the time of reporting, including a referral for longer-term mental health care and /or counselling

  • Prophylaxis and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV

  • Forensic examination to document injuries.

  • Access to competent and specially trained criminal justice practitioners who can advise them on reporting the crime, and prosecuting the offender

Types of Impact

Area Impacted

  • To/from the stop/station/rank
  • Waiting for train/bus/paratransit
  • In the vehicle
  • At interchanges
The legal framework of a country applies to all areas.

Time of Day of Impact

  • Day-time travel
  • Night-time travel
  • Peak-time travel
  • Off peak-time travel
The legal framework of a country is applicable night and day, and does not change, due to traffic volumes.

Mode Impacted

  • Bus
  • Train
  • Rideshare
  • 4 wheelers informal
  • 3 wheelers informal
  • 2 wheelers informal
  • Cycling
  • Walking
The legal framework of a country applies to all modes.

Demographic impacted

  • Girls
  • Boys
  • Adult Women
  • Men
  • Elderly Women
The legal framework of a country influences all inhabitants and visitors.

SWOT Analysis

  • Survivor-centred multi-disciplinary care.

  • Coordinated response.

  • Political will to improve (where necessary) and properly implement the law.

  • Understanding of the significant, long-term effects of sexual violence on survivors, their families, and communities, including the fear of victimisation on women’s mobility, movement, and livelihoods.

  • Police and courts – create the impression that sexual offenses are not taken seriously, and that the needs of survivors are not prioritised.

  • Undermining the reporting of offenses, and increases fear of crime for victims.

Formal legal definitions of offences facilitate a common understanding of what constitutes an offence and how it should be dealt with. This enables appropriate response initiatives to be formed.

  • Siloed service provision that creates fragmented service provision.

  • Inadequate or absent training of first responders and reporting officers that addresses the content of the law.

  • Myths and stereotypes about rape.

  • Secondary victimisation of survivors.


Assuming that there is political will, both females and governing bodies will be satisfied with the development of rape legislation and the identification of enforcement and health protocols.

  • Perception by (female) passengers
  • Perception by governing bodies
  • Level of confidence in these ratings


Implementation of this intervention takes some time initially, as the legal framework and response procedures are developed. The benefits occur slowly initially but will last.

Implementation timeframe

  • 0-1 year
  • 1-3 years
  • >3 years

Timeframe to realise benefits

  • 0-1 year
  • 1-3 years
  • >3 years

Scale of Implementation

This intervention affects all geographical scales.

Station or

Ease of Implementation

This intervention takes a moderate amount of effort to implement, as it requires skilled personnel, and it takes a fair amount of time and effort.

List of References



1. Kilonzo, N., Ndung’u, N., Nthamburi, N., Ajema, C., Taegtmeyer, M., Theobald, S., & Tolhurst, R. (2009). Sexual violence legislation in sub-Saharan Africa: the need for strengthened medico-legal linkages. Reproductive Health Matters, 17(34), 10-19.