New Rape Kits will help crack Rape Cases

The forensic DNA laboratory of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has been researching and developing a forensic kit to identify male perpetrators in rape cases. We heard last week that this kit has now been fully developed and is available to Crime Labs to help crack rape cases, specially in those cases where a victim has been raped by more than one perpetrator. 

The UWC research team looked at local regions with high gene variability between individuals, and the kit they developed was thoroughly tested against South Africa’s different population groups. It had been proved that the kit would help increase the conviction rate in rape cases. The police currently use kits that analyse both female and male DNA but this can be confusing and cluttered. This kit will supplement those in use and will support circumstantial evidence.

The kit, developed under the leadership of Professor Sean Davidson together with Dr Eugenia dâ Amato, is similar to those made in America and Europe, but is more accurate with South Africa’s population groups, UWC’s An Wentzel said.

How does it work?

The test isolates information of the Y-chromosome — which is present only in males — and is able to narrow down suspects to the range of father, son or brother.

Why is it such a ‘breakthrough’?

Because father passes his Y-chromosome to his son, meaning that they have identical Y-chromosomes and therefore they would both be suspects based on Y-DNA evidence. Davidson said forensic pathologists could now pick up male DNA more easily in a rape case, and this made it more useful in identifying the rapist, with investigators able to narrow down the range of possible aggressors. “The technology is also good at excluding innocent men,” he said.

Davidson said the test takes “a matter of days”. However, it would not eliminate the time taken in the administration of DNA processing.
The findings and results have been welcomed by the international forensics community and has been hailed by UWC  as a giant step forward for justice and rape victims in South Africa.

14 March 2011

One Response to “New Rape Kits will help crack Rape Cases”

  1. Mandla Mpempe says:

    Kindly let me know where I can order sexual assault forensic evidence collection kits and blood alcohol kits. I am based in Botswana. I need to order it urgently in South Africa.