|The three new Gender Based Violence (GBV) Amendment Bills are currently undergoing consideration by the National Council for Provinces. The public is however called upon to make written submissions on the amendment Bills by 9 July 2021.
Action Society’s submission, as part of the public participation process, was discussed on a virtual press conference on 8 July 2021. The lobby group talked to Daniël Eloff (Hurter Spies Attorneys) and Rob Hutchinson (Dear South Africa/DearSA), to discuss the content of these Bills and the public participation process.
One of the positive amendments that was highlighted in the Criminal And Related Matters Amendment Bill, is the fact that victims of GBV will now be able to give testimony through intermediaries which offers more protection for victims by not having to face their perpetrators in court.
“The fact that women don’t have to be subjected to more trauma in court is an indication that these amendments are moving South Africa forward in the process to create victim based legislation. We hope that this will also give women more courage to report their perpetrators without the fear of being intimidated,” said Dr Rineé Pretorius, spokesperson for Action Society.
Action Society welcomes the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act before the National Assembly. The expansion of the National Register of Sex Offenders (NRSO) to include all sex offenders (and not only sex offenders against children and mentally disabled persons) and addition of sexual intimidation and incest as a violation, is a step in the right direction. The Amendment Act now also includes protection for persons over 60 and persons with sensory and intellectual disabilities and requires that perpetrators details be kept on the NRSO for a longer period.
“We are however still not satisfied with the current functionality and accessibility of the NRSO and will keep advocating for the public to have access to the NRSO. In too many cases of rape and sexual abuse the perpetrators are known to the victims – a family friend, a boyfriend, a stepfather ̶ we need to enable the public to make informed decisions about people they allow around their children. Although greater access to the NRSO as currently envisaged is a significant positive development, if the NRSO is made more readily available to the public, we would have had a better idea of perpetrators and it could also help reduce child rape, abuse, and other forms of GBV,” commented Pretorius.
Discussing the importance of public participation as part of the legislative process Rob Hutchinson (DearSA) commented: “Over the past three years, we have seen a dramatic increase in public participation on all matters as the public has come to realise the difference between a petition and having a say through an official process. A major contributing factor is the impact created through public participation is recognisable and measurable as Bills are influenced before they are entered into law.”
Pretorius concluded: “Notwithstanding the important strides that have been made, there is still work to be done to ensure that victims and survivors of GBV, domestic violence and abuse are afforded the maximum protection the law can provide and that more preventative measures to ensure protection are put in place.”
You can have your say about the GBV-bills here: https://dearsouthafrica.co.za/gbv/.