“It’s time for action, Mr President.”
Civil rights Organisation Action Society has welcomed Parliament’s adoption of the three gender-based violence Bills (GBV Bills).
The Bills are the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, and the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill.
“These three critical pieces of legislation were introduced in parliament some three years ago, in 2018, after a spate of GBV and femicide (GBVF) rocked the country. We hope the president signs them into law immediately ̶ without any further delay ̶ as it is way overdue,” said Action Society spokesperson Nomfundo Jele.
Despite increased awareness of GBVF, crimes against women and children are on the rise.
“We believe that these bills, if implemented immediately and correctly, will assist in curbing this scourge,” said Jele.
Action Society said the President was not taking the GBVF pandemic seriously enough.
In his address on 12 September, President Ramaphosa said that GBVF continues to rock the country, adding several crimes were committed against women and girls in August.
“President Ramaphosa is just repeating what he said at the Presidential Summit against GBVF in 2018, but three years later, very little has been done about GBVF. Having stricter laws and regulations in the form of these bills will not solve the problem of GBVF,” said Jele.
Jele said the time has come for the laws to be implemented; otherwise, they remain as pieces of papers that do nothing for the safekeeping and protection of our country’s most vulnerable citizens.
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences & Related Matters) Amendment Act now allows more public access to the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO), something the organisation has been actively campaigning for.
Although the scope of people who can apply to get information about sex offenders has been increased, the functionality of the National Registry of Sexual Offenders remains uncertain.
The NRSO will now have to be updated to include offences like incest and sexual intimidation, which will further stretch the resources and capabilities of the Registrar.
A victory for victims of GBVF is that the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill will now allow for complainants to testify in bail and parole proceedings.
“The current justice system is not victim-centred. It is time for victims’ needs to be considered, especially when their violent attackers are applying for bail or parole,” said Jele.
Action Society has also welcomed the fact that victims will testify via CCTV in GBVF cases – which will ensure victims don’t have to face their perpetrators and be subjected to further trauma during court proceedings.
The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill introduces an online protection order application. If the implementation of this system is successful, it will spare victims the embarrassment and trauma of having to apply for protection orders in person, as often they are too scared of further victimisation.
This Bill also makes provision for a central database of protection orders which will assist prosecuting authorities to build stronger court cases and increase a successful prosecution rate.
Hopefully, this will also serve as a deterrent. If perpetrators know that they can’t hide their past, it might stop them from re-offending.
Jele concluded: “Women and sexual assault victims in South Africa are not suffering due to a lack of legislative protection, but solely due to government – Ramaphosa, Bheki Cele and the South African Police Services in particular – not effectively implementing the legislative tools at their disposal.”