Three new Bills to curb gender-based violence

October 1st, 2020
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In his penned open letter to the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that three new Bills have been introduced in Parliament. The Bills have been introduced in an effort to curb the recent spate of gender-based violence and femicide in the country. Many women’s organisations have demanded that South African laws need to be tightened on granting bail to suspects and that there be enforcement of long sentences for offenders. The aim of the three amendment Bills is to fill the gaps, which allow some perpetrators of these crimes, to evade justice.

The first is the Bill to amended the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007. President Ramaphosa noted that the amendment ‘creates a new offence of sexual intimidation, extends the ambit of the offence of incest, and extends the reporting duty of persons who suspect a sexual offence has been committed against a child’. The amendment also expands the scope of the National Register for Sex Offenders to include the particulars of all sex offenders. President Ramaphosa went on to state:

‘Until now, it has only applied to sex offenders convicted of sex crimes perpetrated against children or persons with mental disabilities. The time an offender’s particulars must remain on the register has been increased, and those listed on the register will have to disclose this when they submit applications to work with persons who are vulnerable. The Bill also makes provision for the names of persons on the National Register for Sex Offenders to be publicly available.’

The second Bill is the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill B17 of 2020, which will tighten the granting of bail to perpetrators of gender-based violence and femicide and expands the offences for which minimum sentences must be imposed. President Ramaphosa added: ‘When a prosecutor does not oppose bail in cases of gender-based violence, they have to place their reasons on record. Unless a person accused of gender-based violence can provide exceptional circumstances why they should be released on bail, the court must order their detention until the criminal proceedings are concluded.’

South Africa has unacceptably high levels of intimate partner violence, which has led to the introduction of the third Bill, which will tighten the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. According to President Ramaphosa, domestic violence will be defined to cover those in engagements, dating, in customary relationships, and actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationships of any duration. He added: ‘The Bill also extends the definition of “domestic violence” to include the protection of older persons against abuse by family members. Complainants will be able to apply for a protection order online. To prevent a scenario where perpetrators can hide past histories of domestic violence, an integrated repository of protection orders will be established.’

If the above amendments are implemented correctly, this will be a step in the right direction in dealing with the gender-based violence pandemic in the country.

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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2020 (Oct) DR 3.