Legislation should state that no adverse inference shall be drawn from a delay between the act of violence and the reporting of the act of violence. The judicial officer should be required by the legislation to so inform the jury.
For example, the Combating of Rape Act, No 8, (2000) of Namibia states:
7. In criminal proceedings at which an accused is charged with an offence of a sexual or indecent nature, the court shall not draw any inference only from the length of the delay between the commission of the sexual or indecent act and the laying of a complaint. Sec. 7
(See also: the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act (No. 32) of South Africa, Section 59; and the UN Handbook, 3.9.6.)
Promising practice: The Sexual Offences Act (1992) of Barbados requires the court to warn the jury if evidence is given or a question is asked that may suggest that the complainant/survivor did not issue a complaint or delayed in making the complaint. It requires the court to state that this does not necessarily indicate that the allegation is false, and the court must inform the jury that there may be good reasons why a victim of a sexual assault might hesitate to make, or might not make, a complaint about the assault. (Article 29)
Legislation should not allow mediation in cases of sexual assault at any stage of the process. (See: UN Handbook, 3.9.1.)
Legislation should not allow provocation as a defense to sexual assault. (See: Model Strategies, 7(d) p. 33.)
Legislation should not allow perpetrators to avoid punishment by reaching an agreement with the family of the victim/survivor or by providing the family with payment. (See: Good practices in legislation on “harmful practices” against women (2010), 3.6.1; Gender-Based Violence Laws in Sub-Saharan Africa, p. 32.)
Legislation should remove any exemption from punishment for perpetrators of sexual assault who marry the survivor. (See: Good practices in legislation on “harmful practices” against women (2010), 188.8.131.52.) Legislation should explicitly prohibit sexual assault cases from being dismissed upon the marriage of the perpetrator and survivor. Legislation should state that if a marriage occurs between the perpetrator and survivor, the case should be examined and considered for prosecution as a forced marriage.
(See: The section on Forced and Child Marriage of this Knowledge Module.)
Legislation should prohibit or restrict the purchase, possession and use of firearms and other regulated weapons by offenders convicted of sexual assault.
(See: Violence Prevention: the evidence (2009), a World Health Organization publication which states that when access to firearms is restricted lives, families, and costs are saved.)