President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law three new pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening efforts to end gender-based violence and crime in South Africa.
The laws aim to change the landscape in terms of how government departments, law enforcement, and the courts deal with cases of violent crime in South Africa – especially violence against women and the vulnerable.
“The enactment of legislation that protects victims of abuse and makes it more difficult for perpetrators to escape justice is a major step forward in our efforts against this epidemic and in placing the rights and needs of victims at the centre of our interventions,” Ramaphosa said.
“This legislation demonstrates democracy at work. Civil society’s demands from the gates of Parliament were heard and listened to, and gave rise to our nation reaching a point where the demands of citizens are now cast in our law.”
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill
The bill amends Chapter 6 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act to:
- Expand the scope of the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO) to include the particulars of all sex offenders and not only sex offenders against children and persons who are mentally disabled;
- Expand the list of persons who are to be protected to include other vulnerable persons, namely, certain young women, persons with physical, mental or intellectual disabilities and persons over 60 years of age who, for example, receive community-based care and support services;
- Increase the periods for which a sex offender’s particulars must remain on the NRSO before they can be removed from the Register to 20 years.
The bill’s prime goal is to improve the country’s prevention of sex crimes, particularly of paedophilia. It also proposes to expand the ambit of the crime of incest and introduces a new offence of sexual intimidation.
The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill
The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill aims to address Gender-Based Violence and offences committed against vulnerable persons and provides for additional procedures to reduce secondary victimisation of vulnerable persons in court proceedings.
This includes the giving of evidence through intermediaries in proceedings other than criminal proceedings.
The new law also expands the circumstances in which a complainant can give evidence through an intermediary and provides for evidence to be given through audio-visual links in proceedings other than criminal proceedings.
This legislation also tightens bail and minimum sentencing provisions in the context of Gender-Based Violence.
The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill
The amended legislation includes new definitions, such as ‘controlling behaviour’ and ‘coercive behaviour’, and expands existing definitions, such as “domestic violence”, to include spiritual abuse, elder abuse, coercive behaviour, controlling behaviour, and/or exposing/subjecting children to certain of listed behaviours.
The bill also introduces online applications for protection orders against acts of domestic violence and imposes obligations on functionaries in the Departments of Health and Social Development to provide certain services to victims of domestic violence.