Grooming in South Africa

Part of this year’s projects has been the search for good examples of grooming law.

I believed my groomer had been sacked from a job in the Netherlands because he was grooming from from his desk. As far as I can now ascertain, grooming is not yet illegal in the Netherlands, and the dismissal would likely have been for misuse of time and facilities at work had he not guessed he was about to get fired and resigned.

I will take a closer look with you at Dutch law later, but of real interest for the moment is South Africa, where poverty left many in a vulnerable position in the ‘post apartheid’ years. It had been flagged to me as progressive.

I am not pretending to be a legal expert. This was research to pass to legal experts if we found anything to hold up as a beacon.

The position in South Africa

A couple of things stand out for me with regard to South Africa.

As with most countries, South Africa’s laws around grooming centre around children and ‘vulnerable adults’ (read mentally disabled). The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 tidied up a lot of South African law relating to sexual offences.

As expected, there is mention of forced prostitution and trafficking. It is the acts themselves rather than the grooming of people into these positions which is illegal.

But there is mention of ‘seduction’ as tort in various places. The¬†tort of seduction¬†still appears to exist in South Africa, almost the equivalent of the Sex/Rape by Deception Law now rendered useless in UK law. An unmarried woman who had been seduced could claim damages if consent was obtained by ‘misinterpretation.

(It does have to be noted that the origins of this law date back to the days when women were regarded as chattels, and when a father could take action, not the woman herself.)

So laws around grooming are tight if they lead to trafficking or forced prostitution, and under law there seems to remain some protection from obtaining sex by deception, although I’ve found little about it beyond the odd reference.

There does, however, seem to be a fairly wide awareness of grooming and grooming techniques, and of ‘catfishing’ a form of grooming where the individual pretends to be someone else, notably online, to form a relationship.

Related laws include: online/social media offences breaching personal privacy (eg sextortion), assault, criminal defamation, and extortion. (Source: MOBEIG)

Anti Grooming Points for Legislation?

If I had to give South Africa a score for protection against grooming on the basis of what I’ve found whilst researching, it’d be a (very arbitrary) 6 out of 10:

  • Definitely better than average (probably better than the UK)
  • Some clear mentions of adult grooming as a ‘thing’ (not overlooked)
  • Strong awareness of grooming into trafficking
  • Strong awareness of grooming into modern day slavery
  • Potentially has an existing law of seduction as a tort, although it’s unclear whether a legal challenge might succeed (This would help bring actions against sexual grooming)
  • No explicit grooming laws yet
  • Grooming seems low on the agenda (understandably)

Feel free to add or comment, correct or clarify – this is just a piece of Internet research shared in the search for a good model of legislation against grooming, and doesn’t pretend to be a definitive statement of legal position.

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