As a civil rights organisation driven by a purpose to be a voice for the voiceless in our broken society, Action Society welcomes parliament’s adoption of the three gender-based violence Bills (GBV Bills).
These 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.
“The 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. GBVF continues to rise and we believe that these bills, if implemented immediately and correctly, will assist in curbing this scourge,” says Action Society spokesperson, Nomfundo Jele.
Action Society is concerned that the president is not taking the pandemic of GBVF seriously and just keeps paying lip service to victims. In his “family meeting” last night, 12 September, President Ramaphosa said that GBVF continues to rock the country, adding that in August, there were a number of terrible crimes committed against women and girls.
“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. These laws need to be implemented by the police and government agencies – otherwise it remains pieces of paper – that does nothing for the safe keeping and protection of our country’s most vulnerable citizens,” continues Jele.
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 NRSO 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 centered, it is time for victims’ needs to be considered, especially when their violent attackers are applying for bail or parole. Action Society also welcomes the fact that victims will be able to 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 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 concludes: “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. It’s time to start implementing these laws. The leaders need to take action and remove these violent criminals from our society.”