Victims of gender-based violence will now enjoy a lot more protection under South African law.

This after President Cyril Ramaphosa last week signed off on three important pieces of gender-based violence legislation.

Ramaphosa signed off the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill, the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.

Advocacy, Policy and Research Officer at the MOSAIC Training, Service and Healing Centre, Kerryn Rehse explains some of the benefits of the new laws.

Rehse says the Acts are expected to come into effect in the next 6 to 12 months.

MOSAIC, which contributed to the amendment process of the Act, says South Africa can make strides against domestic violence and GBV when there is the kind of alignment between civil society activism and lobbying, and political will and leadership, as was demonstrated in this legislative process.

One of the significant changes to the Act is the introduction of electronic applications for protection orders. Applications for such orders can now be sent electronically to the relevant court for consideration without the applicant needing to leave home, which is sometimes not an option. The applications can be submitted 24-hours a day, meaning they can even be prepared and lodged with the court for consideration outside normal court hours. If the magistrate believes there are sufficient grounds for to grant an interim protection order, they will be able to grant it without the applicant presenting at the court.

The new legislation now also contains provisions for safety monitoring notices, which is an order made by the court for the relevant SAPS station to monitor the safety of any person who has been awarded a protection order, but who still has to share a residence with the respondent or their abuser. The notice compels SAPS to ‘check-in’ with the applicant through electronic channels and visits to the home or joint residence, to assess the applicant’s safety.

The Act further provides SAPS the authority to use necessary force to gain access to a victim, where the abuser or another person denies access.

Victims will now also be better served by an integrated electronic repository for domestic violence protection orders. If used as outlined in the Act, MOSAIC says the electronic repository will provide a centralised system for storing and retrieving domestic violence protection order applications and ordered issues – something that civil society has been advocating for many years.

Read the President’s full statement here.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to an exponential increase in mental-health illnesses, while gender-based violence has also seen a spike.

The South African Society of Psychiatrists says the limited access to healthcare facilities has contributed to GBV victims not being able to freely access support and healthcare services.

SASOP’s Dr Yumna Minty says the “shadow pandemic”, where violence toward women and girls have increased, needs Government’s urgent attention.

She says the economic hardships, brought on by the pandemic, contributed to violence in domestic settings.

Read more here.

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