The beginning of the year 2022 marked President Cyril Ramaphosa’s proclamation of three distinct laws that aim to strengthen Gender Based Violence (GBV) prevention and response in South Africa.
The Masiphephe Network welcomes these developments especially when women and children continue to suffer abuse, killings and abductions by their partners and in communities, despite a world-acclaimed constitution that guarantees everyone’s rights to live freely, without violence, and enjoy a productive life.
Funded by USAID and coordinated by the Centre for Communication Impact (CCI), the Masiphephe Network comprises of over 100 government and civil society organisations, including local media and businesses mandated and involved in GBV prevention and response in eThekwini, Mpumalanga and the City of Johannesburg. The network contributes towards assisting with the implementation and monitoring of GBV laws and policies at the community level through evidence-led advocacy; community-based prevention, education and awareness interventions designed to influence behavioural change among men and women; capacity building for improved service delivery; strengthened collaboration and referral pathways for mitigating harm through psychosocial support; and the referral of cases to law enforcement agencies.
Centre for Communication Impact Project Director for the GBV Programme, Sakumzi Ntayiya is upbeat about the news that President Ramaphosa has signed off on three important laws that would help prevent, reduce and address GBV in South Africa.
“We urge government to strengthen collaboration with civil society and donor agencies in making more resources (financial, skilled capacity, infrastructure) and prevention programmes available at community level to effectively implement these new legislative amendments. Alignment of the laws with clear regulations and operational plans, not to mention continuing current efforts in the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of these laws, is critical to their success.
“As Masiphephe Network we feel that the new DNA law is a right step as it would aid the law enforcement agencies in resolving cases of GBV especially with cases such as murder and rape meted out against women and children. It is good news for the sector but we will have to ensure that the law is implemented as intended.
“As far as capacity of the police, the USAID funded Masiphephe Network works with the SAPS in districts to improve access to justice for GBV survivors and their families. From
consultations with SAPS at project sites, there are serious challenges with inadequate equipment, financial and human resources for DNA analysis.
We urge government to strengthen collaboration with civil society and donor agencies in making more resources available to reduce the backlog. By so doing the courts will be able to prosecute cases in time and minimise cases being struck off the role due to lack of evidence.
The three laws that have just been proclaimed include:
1. The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act
This new law will regulate issues such as the granting and cancellation of bail and further regulates the sentence for persons found guilty of GBV by prescribing a minimum sentence. While the current law gives rights to offenders to apply for bail, the amended Criminal Procedure Act will regulate the awarding of bail. This is a step towards the right direction as many survivors of GBV have often felt unsafe as offenders would obtain bail and use the opportunity to intimidate the complainants. In addition, it will also:
- Allow survivors to give evidence through audio-visual links thus lessen the burden of having to be in the same courtroom as the alleged perpetrator; and
- Entitle survivors to use any intermediary to testify on their behalf during court proceedings or any other proceedings deemed fit to mediate and resolve the case.
2. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act
Sexual Offences and related matters – this piece of legislations seeks to improve the country’s prevention of sex-related crimes such as rape. To achieve its intended objectives, the new law will among others
- Expand the scope of the National Register for Sex Offenders to include all sex offenders not only those who have sexually violented children and the people with disabilities rather everyone who has been violented sexually against their will. This will include women and the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Increase the time frame for which sex offenders’ particulars must remain on the register.
- Introduction of incest and sexual intimidation as heinous crimes.
3. Domestic Violence Amendment Act
This legislation has broadened the scope of domestic violence, with the inclusion of behaviours such as ‘’controlling, spiritual abuse, elderly abuse and coercive behaviour” as acts of domestic violence. It also protects children from being subjected to these behaviours. It also introduces an online mechanism for people to report these cases and places new legal duties on the Departments of Health and Social Development to provide services to affected GBV survivors.
The laws are part of the National Strategic Plan on GBV and Femicide’s efforts to reduce the scourge of the GBV pandemic in the country. Approved by the Cabinet in April 2020, the National Strategic Plan seeks to also fast track the revision of laws and tighten areas that hamper the fight against GBV in South Africa among other things.
The Masiphephe Network works towards reducing vulnerability to Gender Based Violence (GBV) and strengthening local governance GBV prevention and response. Community based stakeholders from government, civil society, community media and the private sector collaborate to strengthen the capacity of local structures to lead, coordinate, cultivate, advocate for, provide needed services, sustain multisectoral action, and manage a community response to GBV prevention and mitigation in South Africa.