Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a term that society has become all too well accustomed if not desensitized to. Undoubtedly, women bear the greatest brunt and remain victims of this unconscionable phenomenon. The protection provided by the law is therefore imperative. In response to the burden faced by women, three Bills have been introduced to strengthen the prevailing laws around GBV. What follows is an exposition into the material aspects of the Bills.

The first Bill, which is the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill, will amend the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007. The amendment will create a new offence, namely sexual intimidation which will also extend to the ambit of incest. The amendment will increase the reporting duty on persons who suspect a child to be a victim of a sexual offence. Previously the National Register for Sex Offenders only included the names of sex offenders convicted of sex crimes against children and people with disabilities, the particulars of all known sex offenders will now be included. In addition, and most importantly, the National Register for Sex Offenders will be made available to the public. By enabling the public access to the names of sex offenders, the accountability of sex offenders is increased and transparency to the public is enhanced. Another advantage of the National Register being available to members of the public, is that people can inform themselves as to whom they are acquainting themselves with in their environment, for example, a babysitter or teacher.

The second Bill, Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, aims to amend four Acts, namely the Magistrates’ Courts Act 32 of 1944, the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 and the Superior Courts Act 10 of 2013. The amendment is in response to the widespread perception that offenders are being granted bail easily and that minimum sentences are being served by perpetrators which is not equivalent to the seriousness of the crime. The Bill will ensure that the granting of bail will be made more difficult as it will only be granted under exceptional circumstances. Survivors and relatives of a deceased victim will have a say in parole being granted. The amendment will accordingly promote accountability and promote public confidence in the criminal justice system through participation.

The third Bill, which is the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, aims to amend the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. The definition of domestic violence is extended to include victims of assault in various forms of relationships. Older persons will also be extended protection under the Bill against abuse by family members. In addition, a protection order can be applied for online, and not only physically through the court system. The protection order will be sent via e-mail. This is a great improvement as accessibility to the courts are promoted and victims now have an easier route of obtaining a protection order.

There is still room for improvement in closing the gap between what the law says and members of society abiding thereto. However, the amendments to the laws of GBV is a great step towards the protection of women in South Africa who are at the receiving end of undeserved injustices one too many times.

Gender Based Violence Laws: The Amendments