CITING gross police negligence and prosecutorial indifference, the Women's Legal Centre has raised the alarm over conviction rates for sexual offences in South Africa.
It said out of the tens of thousands of cases reported every year, only about 4000 cases were successfully finalised.
The group's director, Jennifer Williams, said that meant the bulk of more than 66000 cases of sexual crimes were not prosecuted or remained unsolved.
And that figure in all likelihood under-represented the extent of sexual violence in South Africa as, depending on the research, the actual number of assaults was somewhere between 650000 and more than two million.
In their annual report for 2011-12, the National Prosecuting Authority admitted its conviction rate in sexual offences cases had dropped in the past few years from 64% to just under 61% of cases.
According to the NPA, only 6913 cases were brought to them for prosecution by Thuthuzela Care Centres (TTCs).
TTCs were established to provide a one-stop service for the victims of sexual offences to reduce the stress suffered during investigations.
According to the NPA report the average conviction rate of sexual offences prosecuted at sites linked to TTCs dropped from 63% to 60.7%.
The reasons given for this included problems with case-flow management, a substantial drop in the number of courts dedicated to sexual offences, a decrease in specialised services as well as a "considerable increase in sexual offence matters reported at TCCs".
Only 57% of cases reported were eventually referred for prosecution, the report said.
Research done by the Women's Legal Centre showed that despite the country's admirable Sexual Offences Act, the law was not being implemented.
"We have a whole plethora of laws, but they are not being carried out," Williams said.
"Women report to us that police officers often would not ask for a description of the alleged perpetrator or actively go out to look for him.
"Women are often not informed that their alleged rapists are out on bail and then accidentally meet them in public.
"Some rape kits are found in cupboards and not sent to the police's forensic laboratories for testing.
"Sometimes the chain of evidence is broken and this crucial evidence cannot be presented in court.
"Prosecutors do not assist victims and do not prepare them for court. We find evidence is seldom led in aggravation of sentence.
"Our research has shown that investigating officers often only have a cellphone number available for a complainant but no address.
"So the minute the cellphone numbers change they come to court and say that they cannot find the complainant.
"We need leadership and political will, a budget and resources and proper training.
"There must be consequences if police officials do not do their jobs. There must be discipline.
"Until we have managed to change the mindset of police officials, we will not win this battle."
The NPA has announced an extensive training programme for the investigators and prosecutors dealing with sexual offences.
These would include the establishment of more TTCs in the coming year, adding to the current 30 countrywide.