New anti-GBV legislation offers more protection for victims, survivors

Monday, January 31, 2022

President Cyril Rampahosa says three new pieces of legislation aimed at fighting gender-based violence and femicide are a step in the right direction in the fight against the scourge.

Last week, Ramaphosa signed into law the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act and the Domestic Violence Amendment Act.

The three laws were formulated following the 2018 National Presidential Summit on Gender Based Violence and Femicide which gave rise to the country’s National Strategic Plan of Gender-based Violence and Femicide.

“I am pleased that despite the significant disruptions caused to the Parliamentary programme by the COVID-19 pandemic, our parliamentarians have passed laws that will strengthen existing provisions around gender-based violence.

“I signed into law three pieces of legislation that honour our promises to strengthen the criminal justice system, promote accountability across the state and put support for survivors at the centre of all our efforts,” the President said.

The bills introduce a wider range of protections for victims and survivors including:

  • Protecting the vulnerable from secondary victimisation by allowing courts to appoint intermediaries through which a minor, a disabled person or an elderly person can be examined in proceedings.
  • Tightening the bail regime.
  • Outlawing of sexual grooming and exploitation of persons with mental disabilities and the Sexual Offences Register.
  • Making it a criminal offence not to report any sexual offences against vulnerable persons.
  • Tightening up of obtaining protection orders and broadening the scope of the conditions under which to apply for a protection order.

The President explained that the new pieces of legislation also place responsibility on members of society to act against incidents of domestic abuse or sexual offences against the most vulnerable.

“All adult persons who have knowledge or suspicion that domestic violence is being perpetrated against a child, a person with a mental disability or an elderly person are obliged to report such acts to a social worker or to the police. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.

“This puts into law the principle that violence against women and children is everyone’s responsibility. When a woman or child is beaten, hurt, raped, assaulted or killed, it is a shame on us all. It is even worse if we knew it was taking place and could have prevented it,” said President Ramaphosa.

He reiterated that although the new legislation empowers the judiciary in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide in the courts, the root of solutions to the scourge still lies within society.

“Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. But as the government, we have promised to provide the legal protection and support an abused person needs for themselves, their children and those close to them. The passage of these new laws is a step in this direction. But it is not the solution. We must prevent violence and abuse from happening in the first place.”– SAnews.gov.za

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