The scourge of Gender Based Violence (GBV) plagues South African women and girls daily. President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law new legislation in the hope of combating GBV in the country.
In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa explained that sentiments expressed during an emergency parliamentary sitting are being implemented.
The new Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act will allow courts to appoint intermediaries through which minors, disabled persons and elderly individuals can be examined in proceedings. This will also allow for the extended use of evidence through an audio-visual link.
Prosecutors who do not oppose bail for perpetrators must state on the record why they do not oppose bail. If courts are not satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist that warrant release on bail, it must be denied.
These laws will among other things, tighten up the state’s bail regime, protect victims from secondary victimisation and allow complainants to apply for protection orders online.
The new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act also outlaw the sexual exploitation of people with mental disabilities. Those who commit these offences must be recorded in the National Register of Sex Offenders (NRSO).
New laws also allow members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) to arrest a respondent if they suspect a complainant is in range due to a breach in the order.
The President said, “I have repeatedly said that we should not allow survivors of gender-based violence to be further traumatised by the legal system”
He added “Survivors of gender-based violence often complain of ill-treatment or disregard for their concerns when they lay complaints at police stations. SAPS members who fail to comply with their obligations under the new law will be guilty of misconduct”.
Between July and September 2021, 9 556 rapes were reported in South Africa. A sample of 6 144 revealed that more than half (3 951) rape incidents took place in either the homes of the victim or the home of the rapist. Around 400 of the rape cases were domestic violence-related, which means the victim and the rapist had a relationship.
Minister of Police Bheki Cele said these statistics show how often women are brutalised by people they know and trust. He said, “With almost 10 thousand people being brutalized and sexually violated in just three months in South Africa, is a disgrace and deeply disturbing”.